Skip to main content

Full text of "Facts and fancies about Java"

See other formats


ABO 






i!^^ 




\ 




'"::& 





mSVA^^ DE 






CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 




THE 

CHARLES WILLIAM WASON 

COLLECTION ON CHINA 

AND THE CHINESE 



CORNELL UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 




924 089 972 





Cornell University 
Library 



The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924089972123 



FACTS AND FANCIES ABOUT JAVA 




A brownie of that enchanted garden that men call Java. 



FACTS AND FANCIES 

ABOUT JAVA 

BY AUGUSTA de WIT 



FANCY WITH FACT IS JUST 
ONE FACT THE MORE 

The Ring and, the Book 



SECOITD EDITIOS", REVISED AND ENLARGED 



TSE HAGUE: W. P. VAN STOCKUM & SON 
LONDON: LUZAC & C° 



1900 



Hct rcclit van vertalen in liot li(illaiul'*cli . 
fransch on duitsch is vocirljehomlon. 



For the technical details in the descriptions of native games 
and ceremonies I have availed myself of the information con- 
tained in the standard work on Java by Professor Veth, 
in the "Medededingen van het Nederlandsche Zendinggenoot- 
schap" , and in the " Tijdschrift voor Land- en Volkenkunde 
van Nederlandsch Indie, ■" and for the wayong I have consulted 
the work on that subject by de Seeiere. 

A. DE "Wit 



CONTENTS 

PROLOGUE 1 

FIBST GLIMPSES 5 

A BATAVLA. HOTEL 14 

THE TOWN 28 

A COLONL&.L HOME 52 

SOCLA.L LITE 72 

GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 98 

GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE IN THE STEJEETS . . .138 

ON THE BEACH 156 

OF BUITENZOKG 184 

IN THE HELL COUNTRY 207 

IN THE DESSA 226 

EPILOGUE 260 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

A BROWNIE OP THAT ENCHANTED GARDEN THAT 

MEN CALL JAVA Frontispiece 

THE QUAY OF TANDJONG PEIOK 8 

A SELLER OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES .... 16 

A TRIPLE ROW OF BRANCHING TAMARINDS ... 30 

THE IDYLLIC DUKe's PARK 34 

CLASP FOB FASTENING A KABAYA IN FRONT . . 112 
A NATIVE RESTAURANT IN ITS SIMPLEST AND MOST 

COMPENDIOUS SHAPE 118 

HERE THEY ARE : PLAYTHING-LESS NAKED , AND 

SUPREMELY HAPPY 118 

THE MINIATURE STAGE , ON WHICH THE LIVES AND 
ADVENTURES OF HINDOO-HEROES, QUEENS AND 
SAESfTS ARE ACTED OVER AGAIN BY PUPPETS OF 

GILT AND PAINTED LEATHER 140 

THE NATIVE ORCHESTRA WHICH ACCOMPANIES EVERY 

REPRESENTATIONS OF THE WAJANG .... 142 
NATIVE LADY TRAVELLING IN HER LITTER . . . 146 
SLOWLY THEY ADVANCE GLIDING RATHER THAN 

WALKING 146 

MUSICIANS 152 

STREET-DANCERS 152 

CARRIERS WALKING BY THE SIDE OF THEIR LUM- 
BERING BULLOCK-DRAWN PEDATI , WHICH CREAKS 

ALONG THE SUN -SCORCHED ROADS 200 

NATIVE NOBLEMAN AND HIS WIFE 232 

A JAVANESE FAMILY 240 



When the Lady Dolly van der Decken, 
in answer to questions anent her legendary 
husband's whereabouts , murmured something 
vague about "Java, Japan, or Jupiter," she 
had Java in her mind as the most "impos- 
sible" of those impossible places. And, indeed, 
every schoolboy points the finger of uncere- 
monious acquaintance at Jupiter; and Japan 
lies transparent on the egg-shell porcelain 
of many an elegant tea-table. But Java? 
What far forlorn shore may it be that owns 
the strange-sounding name; and in what 
sailless seas may this other Ultima Thule be 

fancied to float ? Time was when I never saw 

1 



a globe — all spun about with the net of 
parallels and degrees, as with some vast 
spider's web — without a little shock of sur- 
prise at finding „ Java" hanging in the meshes. 
How could there be latitude and longitude 
to such a thing of dreams and fancies? An 
attempt at determining the acreage of the 
rainbow, or the geological strata of a Fata 
Morgana, would hardly have seemed less 
absurd. I would have none of such vain exac- 
titude : but still chose to think of Java as 
situate in the same region with the Island of 
Avallon, the Land of the Lotos-Eaters, palm- 
shaded Bohemia by the sea, and the Forest 
of Broceliand , Merhn's melodious grave. And 
it seemed to me that the very seas which girt 
those magic shores — still keeping their golden 
sands rmdefiled from the gross clay of the 
outer world— must be unlike all other water^ 
tranquil ever , crystalline , with a seven-tinted 
glow of strange sea-flowers, and the flash 
of jewel-like fishes gleaming up from un- 
sounded deeps. And higher than elsewhere, 
surely, the skies, blessed with the sign of 



the Southern Cross, must rise above the 
woods where the birds of paradise nestle. 

Where is it now , the glory and the dream ? 
The soil of Java is hot under my feet. I 
know — to my cost — that, if the surrounding 
seas be different from any other body of water , 
they are chiefly so in being more subject to 
tempest , turmoil , and sudden squaUs. I find 
the benign influences of the Southern Cross — 
not a very ^brilliant constellation by the way — 
utterly undone by the fiery fury of the noonday- 
sun; and have learnt to appreciate the fine 
irony of the inherited style and title , as com- 
pared with the present habitat, of the said 
Birds of Paradise. And yet — all chagrining 
experience notwithstanding , and maugre the 
deadly dullness of so many days , the fever 
of so many sultry nights, and the home- 
sickness of aU hours — I have still some of 
the old love for this country left ; and I begin 
to understand something of the fascination 
by which it holds the Northerner who has 
breathed its odour-laden air for too long a 
time. So that , forgetting his home , his friends , 



and his kindred in the gray North, he is 
content to live on dreamily by some lotos- 
overstarred lake ; and , dying , be buried under 
the palm-trees. 



First Glimpses 

My first impression of Java was not the one 
of eifulgent light and overpowering magni- 
ficence of colom- , generally experienced at the 
first sight of a tropical country; but, on the 
contrary, of somethiag unspeakably tender, 
ethereal, and soft. It was in the beginning 
of the rainy season. Under a sky filmy with 
diaphanous fleecy texture, in which a tinge 
of the hidden blue was felt rather than seen — 
the sea had a pearly sheen , with here and there 
changefully flickering white lights , and wind- 
ruffled streaks of a pale violet. The shght 
haziness in the air somewhat dulled the green 
of innumerable islets and thickly-wooded 



6 FIRST GLIMPES 



reefs, scattered all over the sea ; and, blurring 
their outlines, seemed to lift them untU they 
grew vague and airy as the little clouds of 
a mackerel sky, wafted hither and thither by 
the faintest wind. In the distance the block of 
square white buildings on the landing-place — 
pointed out as the railway station and the 
custom houses — stood softly outlined against 
a background of whitish-grey sky and mist- 
blurred trees. 

Slowly the steamer glided on. And, as we 
now approached the roadstead of Batavia, 
there came swimming towards the ship num- 
bers of native boats, darting out from between 
the islets , and diving up out of the shadows 
along the wooded shore, like so many water- 
fowl. Swiftest of all were the "wing-praos' " 
very slight hulls, almost disappearing under 
their one immense whitish-brown sail, shaped 
like a bird's wing, and thrown back with 
just the same impatient fling — ready for a 
swoop and rake — so exactly resembling sea- 
gulls skimming along , as to render the 
comparison almost a description. On they 



FIRST GLIMPSES 



came, drawing purplish, furrows through the 
pearly greys and whites of the sea. And, in 
their wake, darting hither and thither with 
the jerky movements of water-spiders, quite a 
swarm of Uttle black canoes — hoUowed-outtree- 
trunks , kept in balance by bamboo outriggers , 
which spread on either side like sprawling, 
scurrying legs. As they approached, we saw 
that the boats were piled with raany-tinted 
fruit, above which the naked bodies of the 
oarsmen rose, brown and shiny, and the 
wet paddle gleamed in its leisurely-seeming 
dip and rise, which yet sent the small 
skiff bounding onward. They were along- 
side soon, and the natives clambered on 
board, laden with fragrant wares. They did 
not take the trouble of hawking them about , 
agile as they had proved themselves, but 
calmly squatted down amid their pHed-up 
baskets of yellow, scarlet, crimson, and 
orange fruits — a medley of colours almost 
barbaric in its magnificence, notwithstan- 
ding the soberer tints of blackening purple , 
and cool, reposeful green; and calmly awaited 



FIRST GLIMPSES 



customers. Under the gaudy kerchiefs pic- 
turesquely framing the dark brows, their 
brown eyes had that look of thoughtful — or 
is it all thoughtless? — content, which we 
of the North know only in the eyes of 
babies, crooning in their mother's lap. And, 
as they answered our questions, their speech 
had something childlike too, with its soft 
consonants and clear vowels, long-drawn-out 
on a musical modulation, that ghded all up 
and down the gamut. They had a great 
charm for me , their flatness of features and 
meagreness of limbs notwithstanding; and I 
thought that, if not quite the fairies, they 
might well be the "brownies" of that enchant- 
ed garden that men call Java. 

But — alas ! for day-dreaming — the gruff 
authoritative voice of the quartermaster was 
heard on deck; and — after the manner of 
gobhns at the approach of the Philistine — 
all the Httle brownies vanished. They were 
gone in an instant; and, in their pretty 
stead, came porters, cabin-stewards with 
trunks , and passengers in very new clothes. 



FIKST GLIMPSES 



For we were fast approaching ; and , presently , 
with a big sigh of rehef , the steamer lay still , 
and we trod the quay of Tanjong Priok. 

It would seem as if the first half hour 
of arrival must be the same everywhere, 
all the world over; but here, even in the 
initial scramble for the train, one notices a 
difference. There is a crowd ; and there is no 
noise. No scuffling and stamping, no cries, 
no shouting, no gruff- voiced altercations. All 
but inaudibly the barefooted coolies trot on, 
big steamer-trunks on their shoulders ; they 
do not hustle, each patiently awaiting his 
turn at the office and on the platform; and, 
as they stand aside for some hurrying, push- 
ing European, their else impassible faces 
assume a look of almost contemptuous amaze- 
ment. Why should the "orang blanda" *) 
thus discourteously jostle them? Are there 
not many hours in a day, and many days 
to come after this? And do they not know 
that "Haste cometh of the evil"? 



*) „People from Holland"; tlie name for Europeans 
generally. 



10 FIKST GLIMPSES 



The train has started at last, and is hurry- 
ing through a wild, dreary country; half 
jungle, half marshland. From the rank un- 
dergrowth of brushwood and bulrushes , rise 
clumps of cocoa-nut pahns , their dark shaggy 
crowns strangely massive above the meagre 
stems through which the distant horizon 
gleams palely. In open spaces, young trees 
stand out here and there, half strangled in 
the festoons of a purple-blossomed liana that 
trails its tendrilled length all over the lower 
shrub-wood. Thickets of bamboo bend and 
sway in the evening wind. 

To the right stretches a long straight 
canal, duU as lead under the lustreless sky; 
the breeze, in passing, blackens the motion- 
less water, and a shiver runs through the 
dense vegetation along the edge — broad- 
leaved bananas , the spreading fronds of the 
palmetto , and mimosas of feathery leafage , 
above which the silver-grey tufts of bul- 
rushes rise. After a while the jungle dimi- 
nishes and ceases; and a vast reach of 
marshy country stretches away to the hori- 



FIKST GLIMPSES 11 



zon. We neared it as the sun was setting. 
Though it had not broken through the 
clouds, the fiery globe had suffused their 
whiteness with a deep , dull purple as of 
smouldering flames. A tremulous splendour 
suddenly shot over the rush-beds and rank 
waving grasses of the marshy land; the 
shining reed-pricked sheets of water crim- 
soned; and along the canal moving like an 
incandescent lava stream , the broadly curving 
banana leaves seemed fountains of purple 
light, and the palmetto and delicate mimosa 
fronds grew transparent in the all-pervading 
rosiness — almost immaterial. Even after the 
burning edge of the sun, perceived for a 
brief moment , had sunk away , these marvel- 
lous colours did not fade, but, softly shining 
on , seemed to be the natural tint of this 
wonderful land — independent of suns and 
seasons. Then, all at once, they were ex- 
tinguished by the rapidly-fallen dusk, as a 
fire might be under a shower. of ashes; and, 
a few minutes after, it was night. 

At the lamplit station of Batavia I hailed 



12 FIRST GLIMPSES 



one of the vehicles waiting outside — a curious 
little two-wheeled conveyance, which, with 
its enormous lanterns , airily supported roof, 
and long shafts between which a diminutive 
pony trotted, looked like a fiery-eyed cock- 
chafer that darts about, moving its long 
antennae. I hoisted myself on to the sloping 
seat , and , for some time was driven through 
an avenue , the trees on either side of which 
made a cloudy darkness against the pale 
strip of sky overhead. There was an inces- 
sant high-pitched twittering of birds among 
the leaves; and, every now and then, a 
fragrance of invisible flowers came floating 
out on the windless air. We passed a tall 
building, shimmering white through the 
darkness — the Grovemor-Greneral's palace I 
was told. Then the horse's hoofs clattered over 
a bridge, and, past the turn of the road, a 
long row of brilliant windows flashed up, 
with a white blaze of electric hght in the 
distance. 

Past the resplendent shop-windows on the 
left side of the street — the other remaining 



FIRST GLIMPSES 13 



dark, featureless — a leisurely crowd moved; 
open carriages , bearing ladies to some evening 
entertainment, bowled along; a many- win- 
dowed club-bunding blazed up ; a canal shone 
with a hundred slender spears of reflected 
light — I had reached my destination, the 
suburb of Rijswijk. 



A Batavia Hotel 

If, in this commonplace-loviiig age, there 
be one thing more commonplace and utterly 
devoid of character than another, it is a 
hotel. Hotels ! where be railroads there be 
they. The locomotive scatters them along its 
shining path together with cinders, thistle- 
seeds, and tourists. They are everywhere; 
and everywhere they are the same. The pro- 
verbial peas are not so indistinguishably alike. 
Surely , a whimsical imagination may be par- 
doned for fancying a difference between the 
pods „shairpening" in some Scotch kailyard, 
the petits-pois coquettishly arranged in Che- 
vet's shop-window, and the Zuckererbsen 



A BATAVIA HOTEL 15 



mashed down to a green pulse in some strong- 
jawed Prussian's plate — a difference, the far 
and faint and fanciful analogy to the more 
obvious one between the gudeman , the French 
chef, and the Konighch Preussischer Douanen 
Beamten Gehilfe who own the said peas. 
But a hotel, on whatever part of Europe it 
may open its dull window-eyes , has not even 
a name native of the country , and declaring 
the citizenship thereof. The genius of speech 
despairs of making a difference in the name , 
where there is none in the thing; and thus, 
from Orenburg to Valentia, and from Ham- 
merfest te Messina, a hotel is still called a 
hotel , and the traveller still expects and finds 
the same Swiss portier and the same red velvet 
portieres, the same indescribable smell of 
sherry, stewed-meat, and cigars in the pas- 
sages , the same funereally-clad waiters round 
the table d'hOte, and the same dishes upon 
it. Thus I thought in my old European 
days. But, since, I have come to Java, and 
I have seen a Batavia hotel — a rumah makan. 
Ah! that was a surprise, a shock, a revela- 



16 A BATAVIA HOTEL 



tion — I would say "un frisson nouveau" if 
Batavia and shivering were compatible terms. 
"Un etouffement nouveau" better expressed 
my sensations, as it flashed upon me in full 
noon-day glory. Noon is its own time , its hour 
of hours, the instant when those opposing 
elements of Batavia street-Ufe — the native 
population most conspicuous of a morning, 
and the European contingent preponderant 
in the evening — attain that exact equipoise 
which gives the place its particular cha- 
racter ; and when the conditions of sky , air , 
and earth are attuned to truest harmony 
with it. 

The great, strong, full noon-day sun beats 
on the stuccoed buildings , heating their white- 
ness to an intolerable incandescence. It has 
set the garden ablaze, burning up the long 
grey shadows of early morning to roundish 
patches of a charred black, that cling to 
the foot of the trees; and making the air 
to quiver visibly above the scorched yellow 
grass-plots. Among their dark leafage, the 
hibiscus flowers flare up like living flame; 




S 



A BATAVIA HOTEL 17 



and the red-and-orange blossoms, dropping 
from the branches of the Flame of the Forest , 
seem to lie on the path like smouldering 
embers. Through this blaze of hght and colour , 
move groups of gaudily-draped natives — 
water-carriers , flower-sellers , fruit- vendors , 
pedlars selling silk and precious stones — their 
head protected from the sun by an enormous 
mushroom-shaped hat of plaited straw; and 
their shining shoulders bending under a 
bamboo yoke, from the ends of which 
dangle baskets of merchandise. Small, brown, 
chubby children, a necklet their one article 
of wear, are gathering the tiny, yellow- 
white blossom-stars that bespangle the grass 
under the tanjong trees. Grrave-faced Arabs 
stride past. Chinamen trudge along — lean, 
agile figures — chattering and gesticulating 
as they go. 

But, among the crowd of orientals, no 
Europeans are seen, save such as rapidly 
pass in vehicles of every description, from 
the jolting dos-&,-dos onwards — with its 
diminutive pony almost disappearing between 



18 A BATAVIA HOTEL 



the shafts — to the elegant victoria drawn by 
a pair of big Australian horses. But, even 
when driving, the noon-day heat is dange- 
rous to the Westerner; and the European 
immates of the hotel are aU in. the dark 
cool verandahs, enjoying a dolce far niente 
enlivened by chaffering with the natives 
and drinking iced lemonades. And — here is 
another surprise for the newcomer! — the 
ladies wear what seems to be the native 
dress of sarong and kabaya! A kabaya is a 
sort of dressing-jacket of profusely-embroi- 
dered white batiste , fastened down the front 
with ornamental pins and httle gold chains ; 
and under it is worn the sarong, a gaudily- 
coloured skirt falling down straight and nar- 
row, with one single deep fold in front, 
and kept in place by a silk scarf wound 
several times round the waist, its ends 
dangling loose. With this costume , little high- 
heeled slippers are worn on the bare feet; 
and the hair is done in native style, simply 
drawn back from the forehead, and twisted 
into a knot at the back of the head. 



A BATAVIA HOTEL 19 



Altogether, this style of attire is original rather 
than becoming. 

And, if this must be confessed of the ladies' 
costume , what must be said of the garb some 
men have the courage to appear in? A kabaya , 
and — may Mrs. Grundy graciously forgive 
me for saying it! for how shall I describe 
the indescribable, save by calling it by its 
own by me never-to-be-pronounced name? 
— A kabaya and trousers of thin sarong-stuff 
gaily sprmkled with blue and yellow flowers , 
butterflies , and dragons ! 

But all this is only an induction into that 
supreme mystery, celebrated at noon, the 
rice-table. Here is indeed, "un etouffement 
nouveau." All things pertaining to it work 
together for bewilderment. To begin with; 
it is served up, not in any ordinary dining- 
room, but in the "back gallery," a place 
which is a sight in itself, a long and lofty 
haU., supported on a colonnade, between the 
white pillars of which ghmpses are caught 
of the brilliantly-flowering shrubs and dark- 
leaved trees in the garden without. In the 



20 A BATATIA HOTEL 



second place , it is handed round by native 
servants, inaudibly moving to a,nd fro upon 
bare feet , arrayed in clothes of a semi-Euro- 
pean cut incongruously combined with the 
Javanese sarong and head-kerchief. And, 
last not least, the meal itself is such as 
never was tasted on sea or land before. The 
principal dish is rice and chicken , which 
sounds simple enough. But, on this as a 
basis , an entire system of things inedible 
has been constructed: besides fish, flesh, and 
fricassees , all manner of curries , sauces , 
pickles , preserved fruit , salt eggs , fried ba- 
nanas, „sambals" of fowl's liver, fish-roe, 
young palm-shoots, and the gods of Java- 
nese cookery alone know what more, all 
strongly spiced , and sprinkled with cayenne. 
There is nothing under the sun but it may 
be made into a sambal; and a conscientious 
cook would count that a lost day on which 
he had not sent in at the very least twenty 
of such nondescript dishes to his master's 
table , for whose digestion let all gentle souls 
pray! And, when to all this I shall have 



A BATAYIA HOTEL 21 



added that these many and strange things 
must be eaten with a spoon in the right and 
a fork in the left hand, the reader will be 
able to judge how very coraplicated an affair 
the rice-table is , and how easily the unini- 
tiated may come to grief over it. For my- 
self, I shall never forget my first experience 
of the thing. I had just come in from a ride 
through the town , and I suppose the glaring 
sunlight, the strangely-accoutred crowd, the 
novel sights and sounds of the city must 
have slightly gone to my head (there are 
plenty of intoxicants besides "gm," vide the 
Autocrat of the Breakfast Table). Anyhow, 
I entered the "back gallery" with a sort 
of "here-the-conquering-hero-comes" feeling ; 
looked at the long table groaning under its 
dozens of rice-bowls , scores of dishes of fowls 
and fish, and hundreds of sambal- saucers , 
arrayed between pyramids of bananas , man- 
gosteens , and pine-apples , as if I could have 
eaten it all by way of "apetitif;" sat me 
down; heaped my plate up with everything 
that came my way ; and fell to. What fol- 



22 A BAXAVIA HOTEL 



lowed, I have no words to express. Suffice 
it to say , that in less time than I now take 
to relate it , I was reduced to the most abject 
misery — my lips smarting with the fiery touch 
of the sambal; my throat the more sorely 
scorched for the hasty draught of water with 
which , in my ignorance , I had tried to 
allay the intolerable heat; and my eyes full 
of tears , which it was all I could do to pre- 
vent from openly gushing down my cheeks , 
in streams of utter misery. A charitable per- 
son advised me to put a httle salt on my 
tongue , (as children at home are told to do 
on the tail of the bird they want to catch). 
I did so ; and , after a miaute of the most 
excruciating torture , the agony subsided. I 
gasped , and found I was stUl alive. But there 
and then I vowed to myself I would never 
so much as look at a rice-table again. 

I have broken that vow , I say it proudly. 
It is but a dull mmd which cannot reverse a 
first opinion , or go back upon a hasty re- 
solve. And now I know how to eat rice, I 
love it. Still, that first meal was a shock. 



A BATA.YIA. HOTEL 23 



It suddenly brought home to the senses— 
what up to that minute had been noted 
by the understanding only — the fact of my 
beuag in a new country. The glare of the 
garden Avithout, the Malay sing-song of those 
dark bare-footed servants , the nondescript 
clothes of the other guests , imited with the 
tmgling and burning in my throat to make 
me realise the stupendous change that had 
come over my universe, the antipodal atti- 
tude of tilings in Europe and things in Java. 
I had the almost bodily sensation of the inter- 
vening leagues upon leagues , of the dividing 
chasm on the unknown side of which I had 
just landed. And it fairly dizzied me. 

Now, the natural reaction following upon 
a shock of this kind throws one back upon 
the previous state of things — in the case 
the ways and manners of the old country — 
and one stubbornly resolves to adhere to 
them. But, though this may be natural, it 
is not wise. I, at least, soon discovered for 
myself the truth of the old sage's saw: "Ve- 
rite en dec^ des Pyrenees, erreur en del^,'' 



24 A BATAVIA HOTEL 



as applied to the affairs of everyday life; 
the more so , as oceans and broad continents, 
the space of thousands of Pyrenean ranges , 
separate those hither an thither sides, Hol- 
land and Java. The home-marked standard 
of fit and unfit must be laid aside. The soul 
must doff her close-cHnging habits of pre- 
judiced thought. And the wise man must be 
content to begin life over again, becoming 
even as a babe and suckling, and opening 
cherubs lips only to drink in the Ught, the 
leisure, and the luxuriant beauty of this new 
country as a rich mother's milk — the blame- 
less food on which to grow up to (colonial) 
manhood. 

But to return to that first "rice- table." 
After the rice , curries , etc. had been disposed 
of, beef and salad appeared, and, to my 
infinite astonishment, were disposed of in 
their turn, to be followed by the dessert — 
pine-apples , mangosteens , velvety "ramboo- 
tans ," and an exceedingly picturesque and 
prettily-shaped fruit — spheres of a pale gold 
containing colourless peUucid flesh — which I 



A BATAVIA HOTEL 25 



heard called "doekoe." Then the guests began 
to leave the table, and I was told it was 
tune for the siesta — another Javanese institu- 
tion , not a whit . less important , it would 
appear, than the famous rice-table — and 
vastly more popular with newcomers. Per- 
haps, the preceding meal possesses somni- 
ferous virtue; or, perhaps, the heat and 
glare of the morning predispose one to sleep ; 
or, perhaps — after so many years of com- 
plaining about „being waked too soon" — the 
sluggard in us rejoices at being bidden, in 
the name of the natural fitness of things , to 
„go and slumber again." I will not attempt 
to decide which of those three possible causes 
is the true one ; but so much is certain : 
even those who kick most vigorously at 
the rice-table, he them down with lamb-hke 
meekness to the siesta. I confess I was very 
glad myself to escape into the coolness and 
quiet of my room. Plain enough it was , with 
its bare, white- washed walls and ceiling, its 
red-tiled floor and piece of coarse matting 
in the centre, its cane-bottomed chairs. But 



26 A BATAviA hotp:l 



how I delighted, in the absence of carpets 
and wall-papers , when I found the stone floor 
so deliciously cool to the feet, and the bare 
walls distilling a freshness as of lily-leaves ! 
The siesta lasted to about four. Then people 
began to hurry past my window , with flying 
towels and beating slippers , marching to the 
bath-rooms. And, at five, tea was brought 
into the verandah. 

Then began the first moderately-cool hour 
of the day. A sUght breeze sprang up and 
wandered about in the garden, stirring the 
dense foliage of the waringin-tree , and making 
its hundreds of pendulous air-roots to gently 
sway to and fro. A white blossom-shower 
fluttered down from the tanjong-branches, 
spreading fragrance as it fell. And, by and 
by , a faint rosiness began to soften the crude 
white of the stuccoed walls and colonnades , 
and to kindle the feathery little cirrus-clouds 
floating high overhead , in the deep blue sky 
where the great "kalongs" were already be- 
ginning to cii-cle. 

At six it was almost dark. 



A BATAVIA HOTEL 27 



The loungers in the verandah rose from 
their tea, ant went in. And, some half-hour 
later, I saw the ladies issue forth in Paris- 
made di'esses, and the men in the garb of society 
accompanying them on their calls , for which 
I was told this was the hour. The "front 
gallery" of the hotel , a spacious hall supported 
on pillars , was brillantly lit. A girl sat at the 
piano , accompanying herself to one of those 
weird , thrilling songs such as Grrieg and Jen- 
sen compose. And when I went in to the 
eight-o'-clock dinner, the menu for which 
might have been written in any European 
hotel, I had some trouble in identifying the 
scene with that which, earlier in the day, 
had so rudely shocked my European ideas. 
I half believed the rice-table , the sarongs and 
kabayas, and the Javanese "boys" must have 
been a dream , until I was convinced of the 
contrary by the sight of a lean brown hand 
thrust out to change my plate of fish for a 
helping of asparagus. 



The Town 

It is but for want of a better word that 
one uses this term of "town" to designate 
that picturesque ensemble of vUla-studded 
parks and avenues , Batavia. There is , it 
is true, an older Batavia, grey, grim and 
stony as any war-scarred city of Europe — 
the stronghold which the steel-clad colonists 
of 1620 built on the ruins of burnt-down 
Jacatra. But, long since abandoned by sol- 
diers and peaceful citizens alike, and its 
once stately mansions degraded to offices 
and warehouses, it has sunk into a mere 
suburb — the business quarter of Batavia — 
aUve during a few hours of the day only, 
and sinking back into a death-like stillness. 



THE TOWN 29 



as soon as the rvunble of the last down-train 
has died away among its echoing streets. 
And the real Batavia — in contradistinction 
to which this ancient quarter is called „the 
town" — is as unhke it as if it had been built 
by a different order of beings. 

It is best described as a system of parks 
and avenues, linked by many a pleasant 
byway and shadowy path, with here and 
there a glimpse of the Kah Batawi gliding 
along between the bamboo groves on its 
banks , and everywhere the whiteness of 
low, pillared houses , standing well back from 
the road, each in its own leafy garden. In- 
stead of walls , a row of low stone piUars , 
not much higher than milestones, separates 
private from public grounds, so that from a 
distance one cannot see where the park ends 
and the street begins. The shadow of the 
tall trees in the avenue keeps the garden 
cool, and the white dust of the road is 
sprinkled with the flowers that lie scattered 
over the smooth grass-plots and shell-strewn 
paths of the villa. 



30 THE TOWN 



Among the squares of Batavia, the largest 
and most remarkable by far is the famous 
Koningsplein. It is not so much a square as 
simply a field, vast enough to build a city 
on , dotted from place to place by pasturing 
cattle, and bordered on the four sides of its 
irregular quadrangle by a triple row of branch- 
ing tamarinds. From the southern distance 
two aerial mountain-tops overlook it. The 
brown bare expanse of meadowy ground , lying 
thus broadly open to the sky , with nothing but 
clouds and cloudlike hill-tops rising above 
its distant rampart of trees, seems like a 
tract of untamed wilderness, strangely set 
in the midst of a city , and all the more 
savage and lonely for these smooth sur- 
roundings. Between the steins of the deli- 
cate-leaved tamarinds, glimpses are caught 
of gateways and pillared houses ; the eastern 
side of the quadrangle is disfigured by a 
glaring railway-station ; and , notwithstand- 
ing, it remains a rugged sohtary spot, a 
waste, irreclaimably barren, and which, by 
the sheer strength of its unconquered wild- 



THE TOWN Bl 



ness, subdues its environment to its own 
mood. The houses, glinting between the 
trees , seem mere accidents of the landscape , 
simply heaps of stones ; the glaring railway- 
station itself sinks into an indistinct white- 
ness , dissociated from any idea of human 
thought and enterprise. 

Now and then a native traverses the field , 
slowly moving along an invisible track. He 
does not disturb the loneliness. He is in- 
digenous to the place, its natural product, 
almost as much as the cicadas trilling among 
the grass blades, the snakes darting in and 
out among the crevices of the sun-baked 
soil, and the lean cattle, upon whose backs 
the crows perch. There is but one abiding 
power and presence here — the broad brown 
field — under the broad blue sky, shifting 
shades and splendours over it, and that 
horizon of sombre trees all around. 

This vast sweep of sky gives the Plein a 
tone and atmosphere of its own. The changes 
in the hour and the season that are but 
guessed at from some occasional glimpse in 



32 THE TOWN 



the street , here are fully revealed. The 
light may have been glaring enough among 
the whitewashed houses of Ryswyk and Mo- 
lenvliet — it is on the Plein only that tropical 
sunshine manifests itself in the plenitude of 
its power. The great sun stands flaming in 
the dizzy heights; from the scorched field to 
the incandescent zenith the air is one im- 
mense blaze , a motionless flame in which the 
taU tamarinds stand sere and grey , the grass 
shrivels up to a tawny hay, and the bare 
soil stiffens and cracks. — The intolerable 
day is past. People, returning home from 
the toAvn, see a roseate sheen playing over 
roofs and walls , a long crimson cloud sailing 
high overhead. Those walking on the Plein 
behold an apocalyptic heaven and a trans- 
flgured earth — a firmamental conflagration — 
eruptions of scarlet flame through incarna- 
dined cloud, runnels of fire darting athwart 
the melting gold and translucent green of 
the horizon; hill-tops changed into craters 
and tall trees into fountains of purple light. 
And many are the nights, when, becom- 



THE TOWN 33 



ing aware of a dimness in the moonlit air, 
I have hastened to the Koningsplein , and 
found it whitely waving with mist, a very- 
lake of vapour, fitfully heaving and sinking 
in the uncertain moonlight, and rolling airy 
waves against a shore of darkness. The 
seasons, too — how they triumph in this bit 
of open country! When, after the devouring 
heat of the East monsoon, the good gift of 
the rains is poured down from the heavens, 
and the town knoAvs of nothing but imprac- 
ticable streets , flooded houses , and crum- 
bling walls, it is a time of resurrection 
and vernal glory for the Plein. The tama- 
rinds , gaunt gray skeletons a few days 
ago, burst into full-leaved greenness: the 
hard, white, cracked soil is suddenly cove- 
red with tender grass, fresh as the herbage 
of an April meadow, in that land of 
freshness, Holland. In the early morning, 
the broad young blades are wliite with 
dew. There is a thin silvery haze in the 
air, which dissolves into a pink and golden 
radiance, as the first slanting sunbeams 



34 THE TOWN 



pierce it. And the tree tops , far off and 
indistinct, seem to rise airily over hollows 
of blue shade. 

Not far from the Koningsplein there is ano- 
ther square , its very opposite in aspect and 
character — the idyllic Duke's Park — very sha- 
dowy, fragrant, and green. One walks in it 
as in a poet's dream. All around there is the 
multitudinous budding and blossoming of 
many-coloured flowers , a play of transparent 
bamboo-shadows that flit and shift over 
smooth grassplot and shell-strewn path, a 
ceaseless alternation of glooms and glories. 
Set amidst tall dark trees , whose topmost 
branches break out into a flame of blossom , 
there stands a marble mansion, temple-like 
in its severe grace of Doric columns and 
crowning frontispiece. A bend of the river 
enfolds the pleasance , murmuring. The Park 

of the Duke One wonders — was 

he at all like Olivia's princely suitor? and 
were these glades ever 'haunted by some 
Viola-like maiden, wooing him all-unsuspec- 
tedly from his forlorn allegiance? Surely, 



THE TOWN 35 



yonder starry orange-grove were a meet scene 
for the final recognition : — 

"Boy, thou hast said to me a thousand times, 
Thou never wouldst love woman like to me . . ." 

The irony of facts has willed it otherwise. 

A duke it was , sure enough , that stood spon- 
sor to the spot. But as (according to French 
authorities) there are fagots and fagots , even 
so there are Dukes and Dukes — and vastly 
more points of difference than of resemblance 
between Viola's gentle prince, and the thun- 
derous old Lord of S axen- Weimar , to whose 
rumbhng EJreuzdonnerwetters and Himmels — 
Sakraments this abode of romance re-echoed 
some fifty years ago. A distant relative to 
the King, of the Netherlands, he was indeb- 
ted to his Royal kinsman's sense of family 
duty for these snug quarters, a very consi- 
derable income (from the National Treasury) 
and the post of an Army Commander , which 
upheld the prince in the pensioner. His tastes 
were few and simple , and saving the one de- 
light of his soul, a penurious youth, and the 
hardships of the Napoleonic supremacy having 



36 THE TOWN 



SO thoroughly taught him the habit, that it 
had become a second nature to him; and 
would not be ousted now by the mere fact 
of his having become rich. He was proud of 
his parsimony, too-prou.der even than of his 
swearing, remarkable as it was; and, amidst 
the pomp and circumstance he had so late 
in life attained to , neglected not the humble 
talents which had solaced his less affluent 
days. So that , looldng upon the many goodly 
acres around his palace, lying barren of aU 
save grass , flowers , blossoming trees , and 
such like useless stuff, he at once saw what 
an imique opportunity it worfld afl'ord him 
for the exercise of his favourite virtue. And, 
setting a.bout the matter in his own thorough- 
going way, he cut down the trees, ploughed 
up the grassplots , and had the grounds 
neatly laid out in onion-beds , and plantations 
of the sirih , which the Javanese loves. Here 
one might meet the Duke of a morning — a 
portly , bald-pated , red-faced old warrior with 
a prodigious „meerschaum" protruding from 
his bristling Avhite beard , stars , crosses , and 



THE TOWN 37 



> goldlace all over his general's uniform , and 
a pair of list slippers on his rheumatic old 
toes. An orderly walked behind him , holding 
a gold-edged sunshade over his shinmg pate. 
And, every now and then, the Duke would 
stop to look earnestly at his crops ; and , 
stooping with a groaning of his flesh, and 
a creaking of his tight tunic, straighten 
some trailing plant, or flick an insect off 
the sirih leaves. 

„The Dulie was in his kitchen-garden, 
A counting of Ms money ," 

as one might vary the nursery rhyme. 

For money it was he counted, when he 
gazed so long and earnestly at his vege- 
tables — the alchemy of his thrifty imagina- 
tion turning every young stalk and sprouting 
leaflet into a bit of metal , adorned with his 
Royal kinsman's effigy. And when the green 
pennies-to-be were plentiful , well content was 
the gardener; and if not — "Mountains and 
vales and floods, heard Ye those oaths?" 
Tradition has kept an echo of them. They 
were something quite out of the common 



38 THE TOWN 



order, and with a style and sound so 
emphatically their own as to bafflee imita- 
tion, and render description a hopeless task. 

Nor did this originality wear off as , in 
the com^se of time, the worthy Duke began 
to forget the language of the Fatherland. 
For, losing his German, he found not his 
Dutch, and the expressions he composed out 
of such odds and ends of the two languages , 
as he could lay tongue to , would have 
astonished the builders of Babel Tower. For- 
tunately, however, his anger was as short- 
lived as it was violent, and, when the last 
thunderclap of Krevizmillionen Himmels Don- 
nerwetter had gradually died away in an 
indistinct grumbling, he would summon his 
attendant for a light to rekindle his pipe 
with a "come now, thou black pig-dog" that 
sounded quite friendly. A kind-hearted old 
blusterer at bottom , he treated his dependents 
well and never sent away a beggar penny- 
less. "Doitless" I should have written, for 
his donations never exceeded that amount. 

There is a tale of an A. D. C , his appointed 



THE TOWN 39 



almoner for the time, having one day come 
to him . with a subcription-Ust on which the 
customary doit figured as His Serene High- 
ness the Duke of Saxen Weimar's contribu- 
tion; and hinting at what he considered the 
dispi'oportion between the exiguity of the gift, 
and the wealth and worldly station of the 
giver. He must have been a very rash A. D. 
C. The Duke turned upon him like a savage 
bull. And, after a volley of oaths: Too little! 
he roared: Too little! and again. Too little!! 
would have you know, younker! that a doit 
is a great deal when one has nothing at all!" 

It was a cry de profundis — laughable and 
half contemptible as it sounded, the echo 
from unforgotten depths of misery. 

He had known what it meant "to have 
nothing at all." Wherefore, and for those 
winged words in which he uttered the know- 
ledge , let his onion-beds be forgiven him. Of 
the outrage he committed , only the memory 
is left — the effects have long since been oblite- 
rated: bountiful tropical nature having again 
showered her treasures of leaf and flower 



40 THE TOWN 



over the beggared garden, and re-erected, 
in their places, the green towers of her trees. 
Rijswijk, Noordwijk, and Molenvliet, the 
commercial quarters of Batavia, are more 
European in aspect than the Koningsplein : 
the houses — shops for the most part — are 
built in straight rows ; sidewalks border the 
streets, and a noisy little steam-car pants 
and rattles past from morning tiU night. But , 
with these European traits , Javanese charac- 
teristics mingle, and the resulting effect is 
a most curious one, somewhat bewildering 
withal to the new-comer in its mixture of 
the unknown with the familiar. Absolutely 
commonplace shops are approached through 
gardens , the sidewalks are strewn with flo- 
wers of the flame-of-the-forest : and, at the 
street-corners , instead of cabs , one finds 
the nondescript sadoo, its driver, gay in a 
flowered muslin vest and a gaudy headker- 
chief, squatting cross-egged on the back 
seat. Noordwijk is unique, an Amsterdam 
"gracht" in a tropical setting. Imagine a 
long straight canal, a gleam of green-brown 



THE TOWN 41 



water between walls of reddish masonry — 
spanned from place to place by a bridge, 
and shaded by the softly-tinted leafage ot 
tamarinds: on either side a wide, dusty 
road, arid gardens, sweltering in the sun, 
and glaring white bungalows : the fiery blue 
of the tropical sky over it all. Gaudily- 
painted "praos" glide down the dark canal: 
native women pass up and down the flight 
of stone steps that climbs from the water's 
edge to the street, a flower stuck into their 
gleaming hair, still wet from the bath; the 
tribe of fruitvendors and sellers of sweet 
drinks and cakes have established themselves 
along the parapet , in the shade of the tama- 
rinds ; and the native crowd , coming and 
going all day long, makes a kaleidoscopic 
play of colours along the still dark canal. 

From the little station at the corner of 
Noordwijk and Molenvliet, a steam-car runs 
along the canal down to the suburbs: every 
quarter of an hour it comes past, puffing 
and rattling: and every time the third-class 
compartment is choking full of natives. 



42 THE TOWN 



The fever and the fret of European life 
have seized upon these leisurely Orientals 
too. They have abandoned their sirih-chewing 
and day-dreaming upon the square of mat- 
ting in the cool corner of the house, the 
dusty path along which they used to trudge 
in Indian file, when there was an urgent 
necessity for going to market; and behold them 
all perched upon this "devil's engine," where 
they cannot even sit down in the way they 
were taught to, "hurkling on their hunkers." 
The skippers and raftsmen are more con- 
servative in their ways — owing, perhaps, to 
their constant communion with the deliberate 
stream , which saunters along on its way from 
the hills to the sea, at its own pace. They 
take life easily; paddling along over the 
shifting shallows and mud-banks of the Kali 
(river) in the same leisurely way their for- 
bears did; bringing red tiles , bricks, and 
earthenware in flat-bottomed boats: or push- 
ing along rafts of bamboo-stems , which they 
have felled in the woods up-stream. As they 
come floating down the canal, these rafts 



THE TOWN 43 



of green bamboo, with the thin tips curving 
upwards hke tails and stings of venomous 
insects, have a fantastical appearance of 
living , writhing creatures , which the native 
raftsman seems to be for ever fighting with 
his long pole. After dark, when the torch 
at the prow blazes out like the single baleful 
eye of the monstrous thing, the day-dream 
deepens into a nightmare. And, shuddering, 
one remembers ghastly legends of river-dra- 
gons and serpents that haunt the sea, swim- 
ming up-stream to ravish some wretched 
mortal. 

The native boats appeal to merrier thoughts. 
With the staring white-and-black goggle eyes 
painted upon the prow, and the rows of red, 
blue, yellow, and green lozenges arranged 
like scales along the sides, they remind one 
irresistibly of grotesque fishes for those big 
children, the Javanese, to play with: — and 
they do play with their boats — at house- 
keeping. They eat, drink, sleep, and live in 
the prao. A roof of plaited bamboo leaves 
helps to make the stern into a semblance of 



44 THE TOWN 



a hut: and here, whilst the owner pushes 
along the floating home by means of a long 
pole and a deal of apparent exertion, his 
wife sits cooking the rice for the family- 
meal over a brazier full of live coals : and 
the children tumble about in happy naked- 
ness. Javanese babies , by the way , always 
seem happy. What do they amuse themselves 
with, one wonders? They do not seem to 
know any games, and playthings they have 
none, except the tanjong-flowers they make 
necklaces of, and perchance some luckless 
cockroach, round whose hindmost leg they 
tie a thread to make him walk the way he 
should. Their parents' Mohammedan ortho- 
doxy debars them from the society of their 
natural companions — dogs : and , as for cats , 
that last resource of un-amused childhood 
in Europe , they hold them sacred , and would 
not dare to lay a playful hand upon one of 
them. Yet, there they are — plaything-less, 
naked, and supremely happy. 

Their parents, for the matter of that, are 
exactly the same : they seem perfectly happy 



THE TOWN 45 



without any visible and adequate cause for 
such content. As long as they are not dying — 
and one sometimes doubts if Javanese die at 
all — all is well with them. The race has a 
special genius for happiness , the free gift of 
those same inscrutable powers who have in- 
flicted industry, moral sense, and the over- 
powering desire for clothes upon the unfor- 
tunate nations of the North. 

Following the left- ward bend of the canal — 
past the sluice, and the Postoffice, the most 
hideous structure by the bye that ever dis- 
figured a decent street — one comes to the 
bridge of Kampong Bahru : and , crossing it , 
suddenly finds oneself in what seems another 
quarter of the globe. Tall narrow houses, 
quaintly decorated and crowned with red- tilted 
roofs , that flame out against the contrasting 
azure of the sky , stand in close built rows : 
the Avide street is full of jostling carts and 
vans , fairly humming with traffic : and the 
people move with an energj^ and briskness 
never seen among Javanese. This is the Chi- 
nese quarter. There are three or four such 



46 THE TOWN 



in the town, inhabited by Chinese exclu- 
sively. This habit of herding together — 
though now a matter of choice with the 
Celestials— is the survival of a time when 
Batavia had its "camp" as mediaeval Italian 
cities had their Grhetto: a period no further 
back than the beginning of last century. 

At that time, when Chinese immigration 
threatened to become a danger to the colony , 
the then Grovernor-General , Valckenier , took 
some measures against the admittance of 
destitute Chinese , which , however well-desig- 
ned, were so clumsily executed as to spread 
the rumour that the Grovernnent intended 
to deport even the Chinese residents of 
Batavia. A panic broke out among them , 
and then a revolt, in which they were soon 
joined by their countrymen from all over 
the island. After a desperate struggle, atro- 
cities innumerable both suffered and inflic- 
ted, a siege sustained, and an attack of 
fifty and odd thousand beaten back by their 
two thousand men , the Hollanders succeeded 
in putting down the rebellion , and the enemy 



THE TOWN 47 



fled to the woods and swamp of the low- 
lands around Batavia. A few months later, 
however, a general amnesty having been 
granted, such of them as had escaped from 
famine and jungle-fever returned, and a 
special quarter was assigned to them, where 
it would be easy both to protect and to 
control them. There they have since conti- 
nued to live. 

The houses of some rich Chinamen in the 
Kampong Bahru neighbourhood are truly 
splendid: the most modest ones still have 
an air of comfort. According to the ideas of 
the inhabitants , there are none absolutely 
squalid. All these houses are, at the same 
time, shops. They are, in a way, wonderful 
people, these sons of the Celestial Empire, 
merchants, in one way or other, all of them. 
There is , of course , a difference. There is 
the foot-sore „klontong" trudging trough the 
weary streets all day , and shaking his rattle 
as he goes, to advertise the reels of cotton 
and the cakes of soap in his wallet: and, 
again, there is the portly millionaire, who 



48 THE TOWN 



entertains army officers and civil servants 
in his own profasely-decorated mansion: but 
the difference is one in degree only, not in 
kind. Amid the pomp and circumstance of 
the one condition, and the squalor of the 
other, the individualities are the same, the 
attitude of mind and the habits of thought 
identical , the sum and substance of a China- 
man's life in Java being expressed in ,,the 
making of bargains." He could as soon leave 
off breathing as leave off buying and selling : 
trading seems to be his natural function. 
And this , one fancies , is the great difference 
betAveen his race and ours ; and the true 
secret of their superiority as money-raakers. 
A Caucasian , if he is a merchant , is so with 
a certain part of his being only — during 
certain hours of the day — in his own office. 
A Chinaman is a merchant with his whole 
heart, his whole soul, and his whole under- 
standing , a merchant always and everywhere, 
from his cradle to his grave, at table, at 
play , over his opium-pipe , in his temple. 
Trade is the element in which he lives , moves, 



THE TOWN 49 



and has his being. His thoughts might be 
noted, in figures. The world is to him one 
vast opportunity for making money, and all 
things in it are articles of trade : which , in 
Chinese, means gain to loim, and loss to 
everybody else. He has few wants, infinite 
resources, and the faith (in himself) that 
removeth trading toAvns. Small wonder if he 
succeeds. 

I fancy it would be quite a practical edu- 
cation in the priciples of business , to watch 
the career of one of these Ohuiamen , from 
the hour of his arrival at Tanjong Priok 
onward. At first , you see him trudging along 
with a wallet, containing soap, sewing cotton, 
combs, and matches. After a few months, 
you find him m your compound , surrounded 
by the whole of your domestic staff, to whom 
he is selling sarong cloth and thin, silks. 
When a year has gone by, a coolie trudges 
at his heels panting under a load of wares , 
the samples of which he subjects to your 
approval with the most correct of bows. Have 
but patience , and you will find him in a 



50 THE TOWN 



diminutive shop , where somehow he finds 
place for a settee in the corner , an mirror on 
the wall , and aU around such a collection of 
articles as might fitly be termed an epitome 
of material civilization. Nor does he stop in 
that tiny house. A few years later, he wiU 
be taking his ease behind the counter of a 
spick-and-span establishment in the camp; 
and, if, by chance, you get a glimpse of 
his wife, you will be astonished at the size 
of the diamonds in her shuiy coil of hair. 
Our friend is on the high road to prosperity 
now, which leads to a big house separate 
from the shop. Before he is fairly fifty, he 
has built it, high and spacious, with an 
altar to the gods and to the spirits of his 
ancestors set in the midst of it, and a pro- 
fusion of fine carving and gilding , of embroi- 
dered hangings and lacquered screens all 
around. He will invite you for the New Year's 
festivities now , and , if your wife accompanies 
you , introduce you to his spouse , resplendent 
as the rainbow in many-tinted brocades, 
and more thickly covered with diamonds 



THE TOWN 51 



than the untrodden meadow with the dewe 
of a midsummer night. He talks about the 
funeral of his honoured father, which cost 
him upward of three thousand pounds sterl- 
ing; and he will ask your advice, over the 
pine-apples and the champagne , about sending 
his son to Europe in one of his own ships , 
that the youth may see something of the 
world, and, if he so hst, be entered as a 
student at the famous university of Leijden. 



A Colonial Home 

"It is the North which has introduced tight- 
fitting clothes and high houses". Thus Taine, 
as, in the streets of Pompeii, he gazed at 
nobly-planned peristyle and graceful arch, 
at the godhke figures shining from the fres- 
coed walls , and , with the vision of that fair , 
free , large fife of antiquity , contrasted the 
Paris apartment from which he was but 
newly escaped, and the dress-coat which he 
had worn at the last social function. And a 
similar reflection crosses the Northerner's 
mind when the looks upon a house in Ba- 
tavia. 

I am aware that Pompeii and Batavia, 



A COLONIAL HOME 53 



pronounced in one breath , make a shrieking 
discord, and that, between a homely white- 
washed bmigalow, and those radiant man- 
sions which the anpientsbuilt of white marble 
and blue sky, the comparison must seem 
preposterous. And, yet, no one can see the 
two , and fail to make it. The resemblance is 
too striking. The flat roof, the pillared en- 
trance, the gleam of the marble-paved hall, 
whose central arch opens on the reposeful 
shadow of the inner chambers, all. these 
features of a classic dwelling are recognized 
in a Batavia house. Evidently , too , this 
resemblance is not the result of mere mecha- 
nical imitation. There is a consistency and 
thoroughness in the architecture of these 
houses , a harmony with the surrounding 
landscape, which stamp it as an indigenous 
growth, the necessary result of the climate, 
and the mode of life in Java , just as classic 
architecture was the necessary result of the 
climate and the mode of life in Greece and 
Italy. If the two styles are similar, it is 
because the ideas which inspired them are 



54 A COLONIAL HOME 

not so vastly different. After all , in a sunny 
country, whether it be Europe or Asia, the 
great affair of physical life is to keep cool, 
and the main idea of the architect, in con- 
sequence, wiU be to provide that coolness. 
It is this wliich constitutes a resemblance 
between countries in all other respects so 
utterly unlike as Greece and Java, and the 
difference between these and Northern Europe. 
In the North , the human habitation is a for- 
tress against the cold ; in the South and the 
East, it is a shelter from the heat. 

There is no need here of thick walls , sohd 
doors, casements of impermeable material, all 
the barricades which the Northerner throws 
up against the besieging elements. In Italy 
as m Greece, Nature is not inimical. The 
powers of sun , wind , and rain are gracious to 
living things, under their benign rule, man 
Uves as sunply and confidingly as his lesser 
brethren , the beasts of the fields and forests 
and the birds of the air. He has no more 
need than they to hedge in his individual 
existence from the vast life that encompasses 



A COLONIAL HOME 55 

it. His clothes , when he wears them , are an 
ornament rather than a protection, and his 
house a place , not of refuge , but of enjoyment , 
a cool and shadowy spot, as open to the 
breeze as the forest, whose flat spreading 
branches , supported on stalwart stems , seem 
to have been the model for its columnborne 
roof. 

The Batavia house, then, is built on the 
classic plan. Its entrance is formed by a 
spacious loggia , raised a few steps above 
the level groiuid, and supported on columns. 
Thence, a door, which stands open all day 
long , leads into a smaller inner hall , on either 
side of which are bedrooms, and behind this 
is another loggia — even more spacious than 
the one forming the entrance of the house — 
where meals are taken and the hot hoxirs of 
the day are spent. Generally , a verandah runs 
around the whole building, to beat off both 
the fierce sunshine of the hot, and the cata- 
racts of rain of the wet season. Behind the 
house is a garden, enclosed on three sides 
by the buildings containing the servants' 



66 A COLONIAL HOME 



quarters , the kitchen and store rooms , the 
bath-rooms, and stables. And, at some dis- 
tance from the main buiding and connected 
with it by a portico, stands a pavilion, for 
the accommodation of guests; — for the ave- 
rage Netherlands-Indian is the most hospitable 
of mortals, and is seldom without visitors, 
whether relatives , friends , or even utter 
strangers , who have come with an introduc- 
tion from a common acquaintance in Holland. 
It takes some time, I find, to get quite 
accustomed to this arrangement of a house. 
In the beginning of my stay here, I had an 
impression of always being out of doors and 
of dining m the public street, especially at 
night, when in the midst of a blaze of light 
one felt oneself an object of attention and 
criticism to every chance passer-by in the 
darkness without. It was as bad as at the cere- 
monious meals of the Kings of France , who 
had their table laid out in public, that their 
faithful subjects might behold them at the 
banquet , and , one supposes , satisfy their own 
hunger by the Sovereign's vicarious dining. 



A COLONIAL HOME 



57 



In time, however, as the strangeness of 
the situation wears off, one reahses the ad- 
vantage of these spacious galleries to walled-in 
rooms, and very gladly sacrifices the senti- 
ment of privacy to the sensation of coolness. 

For to be cool, or not to be cool, that is 
the great question , and all things are arranged 
with a view to solving it in the most satis- 
factory manner possible. For the sake of cool- 
ness , one has marble floors or Javanese mat- 
ting instead of carpets , cane-bottomed chairs 
and settees in heu of velvet-covered furniture, 
gauze hangings for draperies of silks and 
brocade. The inner hall of almost every house , 
true, is furnished in European style — exiles 
love to surround themselves with remembran- 
ces of their far-away home. But, though very 
pretty, this room is generally empty of in- 
habitants, except, perhaps, for an hour now 
and then, during the rainy season. For, in 
this climate, to sit in a velvet chair is to 
realize the sensations of Saint Lawrence, 
without the sustaining consciousness of mar- 
tyrdom. — For the sake of coolness again , one 



58 A COLONIAL HOME 



gets up at half-past five, or six, at the very 
latest , keeps mdoors till sunset , sleeps away 
the hot hours of the afternoon on a bed which 
it requires experience and a delicate sense of 
touch to distinguish from a deal board, and 
spends the better part of one's waking exis- 
tence in the bath room. 

Now, a bath in Java, is a very different 
thing from the dabbling among dishes in a 
bedroom , which Europeans call by that name , 
even if their dishes attain the diraensions of a 
tub. Ablutions such as these are performed as 
a matter of duty; a man gets into his tub 
as he gets into his clothes , because to omit 
doing so would be indecent. But bathing in 
the tropics is a pure delight, a luxury for 
body and soul — a dip into the Fontaine de 
Jouvence , almost the "cheerfal solemnity and 
semi-pagan act of worship" , which the don- 
key-driving traveller through the Cevennes 
performed in the clear Tarn. A special place 
is set apart fort it , a spacious , cool , airy room 
in the outbuildings , a "chamber deaf to noise, 
and all but blind to light". Through the 



A COLONIAL HOME 59 

gratings over the door, a glimpse of sky and 
waving branches is caught. The marble floor 
and whitewashed walls breathe fresliness, 
the watei' in the stone reservoir is limpid 
and cold as that of a pool that gleams in 
rocky hollows. And, as the bather dips in 
his bucket, and sends the frigid stream 
pouring over him, he washes away, not heat 
and dust alone , but weariness and vexatious 
thought in a purification of both body and 
soul, and he understands why all Eastern 
creeds have exalted the bath into a religious 
observance. 

Like the often-repeated bath , the rice table 
is a Javanese institution, and its apologists 
claim equal honours for it as an antidote to 
climatic iixfluences. I confess I do not hold 
so high an opinion of its virtues , but I have 
fallen a victim to its charms. I love it but 
too well. And there lies the danger, every- 
body likes it far too much, and, especially, 
likes far too much of it. It is, humanly 
speaking, impossible to partake of the rice 
table, and not to grossly overeat oneself. 



60 A COLONIAL HOME 



There is something insidious about its com- 
position, a cunning arrangement of its count- 
less details into a whole so perfectly harmo- 
nious that it seems impossible to leave out 
a single one. If you have partaken of one 
dish, fon must partake of the rest unless 
you would spoil all. Fowl calls to fowl, and 
fish answers fish, and all the green things 
that are on the table , aye , and the red and 
the yellow likewise, have their appointed 
places upon your plate. You may try to 
escape consequences by taking infinitesimal 
pinches of each, but many a mickle makes 
a muckle , and your added teaspoonfuls soon 
swell to a heaped-up plate, such as well 
might stagger the stoutest appetite. Yet, 
even before you have recovered from your 
surprise, you find you have finished it all. 
I do not pretend to explain, I merely state 
the fact. 

Records have survived of those ^P antagru- , 
^lic feasts with which the great ones of the 
mediseval world delighted to celebrate the 
auspicious events of their lives, and the 



A COLONIAL HOME 61 

chronicler never fails to sum up the almost 
interminable list of the spices and essences 
with which the cook , on the advice of learned 
physicians , seasoned the viands , in order 
that, whilst the grosser meats satisfied the 
animal cravings of the stomach , those ethereal 
aromatics might stimulate the finer fluids, 
whose ebb and flow controls the soul, and 
the well-flavoured dishes might not only be 
hot on men's tongues but eke "prick them 
in their courages." They pricked to some pur- 
pose , it seems. And , if the spice-sated Ne- 
therlands-Indian is a comparatively law-abid- 
ing man, it must be because battening rice 
coimteracts maddening curry. But for this 
providential arrangement , I fully believe he 
would think no more of battle, murder, and 
sudden death than of an indigestion, and 
consider a good dinner as an ample explan- 
nation of both. 

Now, as to what they clothe themselves 
withal. Taine's opinion concerning tight fitting 
clothes has been mentioned — viz: that they 
are an invention of the North. A fortnight 



62 A COLONIAL HOME 



in Batavia will explain and prove the theory- 
better than many books by many philosophers: 
and, moreover, cause the most sartorially- 
minded individual to consign the "invention" 
to a place hotter than even Java. Like the 
habitations , the habits of European civiliza: 
tign are ii'ksome in the tropics : and , for 
indoor- wear at least, they have suffered a 
sun-change into something cool and strange — 
into native costume modified in fact. Now, 
the outward apparel of the Javanese consists 
of a long straight narrow skirt "the sarong" 
with a loosefitting kind of jacket over it, — 
short for the men, who call it "badjoo," and 
longer for the women who wear it as "kabaya": 
which garments have been adopted bij the Hol- 
landers , with the one modification of the sa- 
rong into a "divided skirt" for the men, and 
the substitution of white batiste and embroi- 
dery for the coloured stuffs of which native 
women make their kabayas in the case of the 
ladies. On the Javanese , a small , spare , 
slightly -made race , the garb sits not ungrace- 
fully ; narrow and straight as it is, it goes well 



A COLONIAL HOME 63 

with contours so attenuated. But on the stur- 
-disiL-HoUander the effect is something appal- 
„Jling. An adequate description of the men's 
appearance in it would read like a caricature ; 
and though, with the help of harmonious 
colotu's and jewellery, the women look bet- 
ter, it is not becoming to them either, at 
least in non-colonial eyes. The aesthetic sense 
shies und kicks out at the sight of those 
straight, hard, umiatural lines. Modern male 
costume has been held up to ridicule as a 
"system of cyhnders". The sarong and kabaya 
combine to form one single cylinder, which 
obliterates all the natural lines and curves 
of the feminine form divine, and changes a 
woman into a parti-coloured pillar, for an 
analogy to which one's thoughts revert to 
Lot's wife. But, though utterly condemned 
from an artistic point of view, from a prac- 
tical one it must be acquitted, and even 
commended. In a country where the tempe- 
rature ranges between 85° and 95° Fahrenheit 
in the shade, cool clothes which can be 
changed several times a day, are a condi- 



64 A COLONIAL HOME 

tion not merely of comfort, but of absolute 
cleanliness and decency, not to mention 
hygiene. For it is a noteworthy fact that the 
women, who wear colonial dress up to six in 
the evening, stand the climate better than 
the men, who, in the course of thiags, 
wear it during an hour or an hour and a 
■ half at most , in the day. And it must be 
admitted that both men and women enjoy 
better health in Java, and under this colo- 
nial regime of dressing than in the British 
possessions , where they cling to the fashions 
of Europe. 

As for the children, they are clad even 
more lightly than their elders , in what the 
Malay calls "monkey-trousers" , chelana-mon- 
jet, a single garment, which, only just cove- 
rmg the body , leaves the neck , arms , and 
legs bare. It is hideous , and they love it. In 
German picture-books one sees babes simi- 
larly accoutred riding on the stork, that brings 
them to their expectant parents. Perhaps , 
after , all monkey- trousers are the paradisiacal 
garment of babes : and it is a Wordsworthian 



A COLONIAL HOME 65 



r ecoll ection of this fact, that makes them 
cling to the costume so tenaciously. 

One cannot speak of an "Indian" child, 
and forget the "babu", the native nurse , who 
is its ministering spirit, its dusky guardian 
angel, almost its Providence. All day long, 
she carries her Httle charge in her long 
"slendang", the wide scarf, which deftly slung 
about her shoulders , makes a sort of a 
hammock for the baby. She does not like 
even the mother to take it away from her: 
feeds it, bathes it, dresses it prettily, takes 
it out walking, ready-, at the least sign, to 
lift it up again into its safe nest close to her 
heart. She plays with it, not as a matter of 
duty , but as a matter of pleasure , throwing 
herself into the game with enjoyment and 
zest, like the child she is at heart: so that 
the two may be seen quarreling sometimes , 
the baby stamping its feet and the babu 
protesting with the native cluck of indignant 
remonstrance, and an angry "Terlaloe"! "it 
is too bad." And, at night, when she has 
crooned the little one to sleep, with one of 

5 



66 A COLONIAL HOME 



those plaintive monotonous melodies in a 
minor key, which seem to go on for ever, 
like a rustling of reeds and forest leaves whilst 
the crickets are trilling their evensong, she 
spreads her piece of matting on the floor, 
and lies dow in front of the Httle bed, like 
a faithful dog , guarding its master's slumbers. 

As for the other servants , their name is 
Legion. A colonial household requires a very- 
numerous domestic staff. Even families with 
modest incomes employ six or seven servants , 
and ten is by no means an exceptional num- 
ber. The reason for this apparent extrava- 
gance is, that, though the_ Javanese is not 
Ja;zy:;3:;as_Jie__often^_ and unjustly is accused 
.o£,.b.eiBgzfcy§L.he is so slow/ that the result 
practically is the same, and one needs two 
or even three native servants , for work which 
one Caucasian would despatch in the same 
time. 

All these have their own quarters in the 
"compound" and their own families in those 
quarters : they go "into the house" as a man 
would go to his office: coming home for 



A COLONIAL HOME 67 



meals, and entertaining their friends in the 
evening, on their own square of matting, 
and with their own saffron-tinted rice, and 
syrup-sweetened coffee. 

Such then , is the setting of every-day 
existence in Java. 

As for the central fact , it is less interesting 
than its circumstances , in so far as it is more 
familiar. The three or four great conceptions 
which determine the home-life of a people — its 
ideas social , ethical , and religious , concerning 
the relations between parent and child, and 
between men and women — are too deeply 
ingrained into its mental substance to be 
affected by any merely outward circumstances. 
Therefore, home-life among the Hollanders 
in Java, is essentially the same as among 
Hollanders in their own cormtry. StiU there 
is this difference, t hat it has more__ physical 
comfort j_ _and__less^ intellectual interest. The 
climate, it seems to me, is in a great part 
responsible for both these facts. 

A continual temperature of about 90 degrees 
is not favourable to the growth of the finer 



68 A COLONIAL HOME 



faculties , in Northerners' brains at least. The 
little band of eminent men which has gone 
up from Java to shine in Diitch Universities 
must be regarded as the signal exception to 
a very general rule. Besides, the heat is so 
grave an addition to the already heavy bur- 
den of the day, that one requires all one's 
energies , both of body and soul , to conscien- 
tiously discharge one's ordinary duties; and 
there is no surplus left to devote to literary , 
artistic, or scientific pursuits. There are no 
theatres , no operas , no concerts , no lectu- 
,res, no really good newspapers, even, in 
Java. There could not be , where there is so 
little active public life. So that a man's one 
relaxation after a hard day's work — rmless 
he looks at dances and dinners in that light- 
must be found in his own house. 

One continually hears the phrase with us 
in the East, „our house means our life." 
Naturally, therefore, the house is made as 
pleasant as possible, and as comfortable, 
not to say luxurious. Incomes are proporti- 
onately very much higher in Java than in 



A COLONIAL HOME 69 



Hollan d — with out financial advantage as an 
incentive nobody would accept life under 
tropical conditions — and the better part of the 
money is spent on good Hving in the majo- 
rity of cases. Even families of comparatively 
moderate means , have a roomy house , a 
sufficient domestic staff, and keep a carriage 
and a good table. 

And as to the heat, which assuredly is a 
discomfort , and no trifling one , the accepted 
mode of life does much to palliate it, not only 
by the regime of housing , feeding , and dres- 
sing, but almost as much by the way the 
day is divided. Work is begun early, so as 
to get as much as possible done iu the cool 
hours : between nine and five everybody keeps 
indoors : and those who can snatch an hour 
of leisure after the one o'clock rice-table, 
spend it in a siesta. Only in the early mor- 
ning , and in the evening does one see Euro- 
peans about. Not even the greatest enthu- 
siast of sport and tennis dare begin games 
earlier than half-past four. 

Formerley this was different. . 



70 A COLONIAL HOKE 



On old engravings , one may see the tall 
sombre houses which the first colonists built 
on those "grachts" now long since demo- 
lished. One may mark them walking home 
from a three hours' sermon in broadcloth 
mantles, and velvet robes, giving solemn 
entertainments in their trim gardens along 
the canal, with the sun in noon-day glory 
over-head, and generally ignoring the trif- 
ling differences between Amsterdam and 
Batavia. They fought very valiantly for their 
ancestral customs ; but very few returned to 
tell of the fight. 

Since , people have reflected that a live 
Netherlands -Indian is better then a dead 
Hollander. And, giving up a fight, in which 
defeat was all but certain , and success worse 
than useless, they have effected a compro- 
mise with the climate. In Java they do as 
Java does, from s\m.rise to sunset. But, with 
the congenial cool of the evening, they 
resume their national existence, the garb, 
the manners and the customs of Holland. 
At seven there is a general "va et vient" 



A COLONIAL HOME 71 

of open carriages bearing women in light 
dresses , and men in correct black-and-white , 
to a "reception" in some brilliantly-lighted 
house : and for a few hours , the life of Home 
is lived again. 

Outside is the black tropical night, heavy 
with the scent of invisible blossoms, pricked 
here and there by the yellow spark of some 
trudging fruitvendor's oilwick. The small 
fragment of Europe which that tall-colon- 
naded marble-paved loggia, with its gUding 
figures of men and women, is, stands an 
Island of Light among the waveless seas of 
darkness. 



Social Life 

The social life of Batavia has a physiognomy 
of its own; curious enough in some of its 
features. But it is not this which strikes the 
new-comer most forcibly. In certain Byzantine 
mosaics, the figure represented is entirely 
eclipsed by the magnificence of the back- 
ground: the eye must grow accustomed 
to the splendour of the gold and precious 
stones surrounding it, before it can take in 
the fines of the face. In a similar manner, 
no surmise can be formed as to the character 
of Batavia social life before the charm has, 
at least in part, passed off, which its setting 
casts over the critical faculties. It moves in 
romance: it is surrounded by beauty; its 



SOCIAL LIFE 73 



conditions and circumstances are in them- 
selves a source of delight. It would seem 
almost enough for a feast, in the cool of the 
evening, to sit under the verandah, masking 
on the gleaming marble floor, half-reflections 
as in tranquil waters under a tranquil sky 
seen from afar; and the rich strange green, 
relieved against blackness , of the plants on 
the steps outside, their every leaf and shoot, 
shone upon by the lamplight, standing out 
sparkling against the ebon wall of night. 
From without, there come the chirping of 
crickets, and the deep-breathed fragance of 
flowers — tuberose, gardenia and datura, noc- 
turnal blossoms. Framed between pillars and 
architraves , great rectangles of sky are seen , 
interstellar azure, and the countless scintil- 
lation of stars. Environings such as these 
shed a grace and dignity even over the- 
actions of daily life. When the scene is in 
itself fair, it is transfigured into what seems 
the vision of a poet. 

Shortly after my arrival, I was invited 
to a ball at the palace. I was at the time 



74 SOCIAL LIFE 



staying with friends in the Salemba quarter; 
and we had a drive of nearly an hour 
through avenues of tall waringin trees. There 
was no wind , not the faintest breath of air ; 
all that world of leaves stood unstirred; 
summits broad as hill-tops, and cascades of 
massive foliage, making a blackness against 
skies all limpid with diffused starlight. Be- 
tween the vaguely-discerned stems , the little 
lights , which fruit vendors keep twinkling 
all the night through, would now and then 
flare up, and a reddish arm be revealed, 
the portion of a face, and some fruits in a 
basket. Once, too, we saw the shining of a 
fire with some native watchmen crouching 
around it, their faces strangely distorted in 
the ever-writhing and shifting hght. One of 
them shouted out a hoarse "who goes?" That 
was the only sound I heard all the time. 
Silence and night all around: and over- 
head, like some pale river winding along 
between shores of darkness, the gleaming 
course of the sky between the dark wa- 
ringin-tops. We might have been in the 



SOCIAL LIFE 75 



heart of a woodland, miles away from the 
populous city, Avhen suddenly the horses 
turned a corner, and there burst upon us 
the great white blaze of the palace , shining 
beyond intervening darknesses. It seemed 
like a low-hanging lightning-cloud , with my- 
riads of httle flames, hke sparks of Saint- 
Ehno's fire hovering aroimd, above, and 
underneath. Those aloft hrmg immovable: 
the steadfast stars; lower down, unmovable 
too , a wide-swung circle of seemingly larger 
luminaries, defining a tract of darkness; 
within that fiame-bound space, trembling 
hither and thither, fitful will-o-the wisps; 
and, without the shining boundary, rushing 
lights that darted by and suddenly stood, 
and then with jerks and stops drew ever 
nearer to the great effulgent cloud. The 
lights of stars , lanterns , oil- wicks , and car- 
riage-lamps seemed all to have been scattered 
from that central glow. As we drew nearer , 
its cloud-like aspect changed to the semblance 
of an alabaster grotto, the fire in its white 
core streaked with fines of black; and these 



76 SOCIAL LIFE 



lines broadened and lengthened until they 
grew into solid shafts: when the columns of 
the loggia stood revealed, rising from the 
height of a marble terrace. 

I ascended the white steps. I was in the 
very heart of the light. The pillars , the floor, 
the' walls , and the ceiling seemed to be made 
of hght. And, suddenly, I had a sense of 
home-coming. Why , I knew all this very well ! 
I had known it for years , for ever so long , 
ever since the time when I Hstened to fairy 
tales, and in the beautifully-bound book — I 
must not touch it, and I kept my hands 
behind my back to withstand the temptation 
— was shown the picture of the castle where 
the Sleeping Beauty lived. At night, lying 
wide awake up to quite nine o'clock, I saw 
it as plain as could be, growing up around 
the lamp , with the groundglass shade for a 
cupola. Later on, when I could read myself , 
and also climb trees as the boys in the village 
had taught me , sitting al through the drowsy 
summer afternoons in the forked branch of 
an old , crooked pear-tree , with Hans Ander- 



SOCIAL LIFE 77 



sen's tales on my knees , I rebuilt the Castle 
on a bolder scale for the Little Mermaiden. 
Alas! she was never to live there! Until, at 
last , when Romeo crossed the threshold , and 
Juliet turned and stood at gaze, a burst of 
music flooded the widening halls , entwined 
couples moved like flowers that sway in the 
evening wind , and , between the taU columns , 
I caught a glimpse of the sky and "aU the 
little stars." Now, I had entered the palace 
myself. The great La France roses , and the 
Marechal Niel that feU in showers of gold 
over the edge of the marble urns , had budded 
in my dream-garden. The music played: and 
in the vast hall I knew so weU , the polonaise 
began to unwind its slow coils , with a flash 
of gold-lace and of diamonds , a gleaming of 
bare shoulders, and a wavy movement of 
silken trains , whose hues enriched the pale 
marble im.derfoot .... "We should move 
into this place, I think," said my partner. 

Since, I have been to many entertainments. 
It is but honest to say that at some I have 
enjoyed myself exceedingly ; pouring rains , 



78 SOCIAL LIFE 



and the croaking of frogs, almost in the 
house, notwithstanding: and that a.t others 
I have felt my eyes burning with tears of 
suppressed yawning. It is true this has not 
happened often : but , when it has , not aB. 
the stars in their courses, nor all the con- 
stellations in their fixed places , could inspirit 
me: and the perfume of the tuberoses gave 
me a headache. I look at these things by 
gas-light now: and some of them I find 
curious and not altogether beautiful. One 
especially: the official character of social life 
in the best circles. It seems as if discipline 
regulated matters of pleasure as strictly as 
matters of business. A man will go to his 
chiefs party as he would to his office of a 
morning; never dreaming of staying away: 
and imposing old ladies resent the presence 
of the wrong partner at a whist table, as if 
it were an obstacle in their husband's career. 
It is as if they could not, even for one 
evening, forget the struggle for existence, 
and as if they regarded a dinner or a dance 
as an engagement with the enemy; a brisk 



SOCIAL LIFE 79 



assault to carry by storm some place that 
has long stood a regular siege — a lively 
skirmish in which everything that comes to 
hand is a weapon for either attack or self- 
defence. One cannot be too well equipped, 
in this great battle of official hfe. Intellect 
is an excellent weapon, but it is not the 
only one: and though zeal is indispensa- 
ble, it is not enough. There are too many 
intelligent and conscientious men jostling 
each other already. To pass them by, the 
ambitious man must be more than merely 
intelligent and conscientious. He must choose 
some special talent — any talent provided it 
be special. Where merits are equal , the 
supererogatory decides the contest. For a 
man at all well born and well bred, ac- 
complishments of the social order are the 
easiest to acquire: besides, these seemingly 
futile things are in reahty the most impor- 
tant. It is the men of the world who get the 
good places : while stay-at-home drudges may 
after ten years still stay at home and drudge. 
Accordingly , social accomplishments are what 



80 SOCIAL LIFE 



a wise man will strive to acquire. And, 
before anything else, let him see that he 
plays a good game of cards. All elderly gen- 
tlemen like cards: all chiefs of departments 
are elderly gentlemen: therefore, all chiefs 
of departments like cards. Hence these many 
and long-drawn-out parties, where I sat at 
little green tables until, dear Grod! those very 
tables seemed asleep , and my faint heart was 
all but standing stiU. 

But I played on. For my three partners 
did; and they had excellent reasons for so 
playing on. Though , to the superficial obser- 
ver , they were only taking their pleasures la- 
boriously , they took better things than their 
pleasure: a chance of preferment. They had 
heard ballads being sung and said about the 
man who stormed the high places with his 
chair for a steed and a pack of cards for 
shield and spear, and utterly defeated and 
drove out the garrison of quill-armed men. 
These things have been. And once upon a 
tune, there was a Head of a Department, 
who held the official virtues to be statistics. 



SOCIAL LIFE 81 



discipline , and cards : but the greatest of 
these was cards. By his play, he judged a 
man. A woman he did not judge at all : con- 
ceiving her to be a non-card-playing being. 
And her sitting down to a game, notwith- / 
standing her declared and organic inability, 
was to him the abomination of desolation. But 
suffer young civil servants to come to him! 
And happy that young civil servant who 
could , and would , and did stand up to him , 
and even defeat him utterly, to the greater , 
glory of cards ! For this man was a truly 
great soul: and he preferred the honour of the 
game very far indeed to his own as a player. 
Still , as all roads lead to Rome , so a good 
many lead to preferment. If one great man 
loves cards, another is partial to a good 
dinner, and most affable over pate de 
foie gras and a bottle of Burgundy. And a 
third — this one , presumably, the proud father 
of pretty daughters — has a predilection for 
dances. So that a man may choose his own 
path upwards ; and , ff he wiU not play, why, 
he may dance. 



82 SOCIAL LIFE 



And dance they do in Batavia, with fer- 
vour and assiduity. On east-monsoon nights, 
nights, when the very crickets judge it too 
hot for the exertion of chirping , snatches of 
Strausz waltzes may be caught floating out 
on the heavy air: and luminous shapes 
be seen twirluig in some brilliantly-lighted 
frontgallery. Out of every ten persons you 
meet, nine are enthusiastic waltzers: and 
that ninth one, the fieriest fanatic of them 
all, is sure to be a young civil servant thus 
"with victory and with melody" pursuing 
his upward path to the heights of official 
honours. Nothing arrests him m his career. 
The gallery too narrow for his evolutions 
does not exist. One exhausted partner after 
another he has led back to her mamma and 
the restorative champagne- cup , and his ar- 
dour is not a whit abated, though his hair 
seems to be sprinkled with diamond-dust, 
and his cheeks have sunk to the pallor of 
that wilted lily, his collar — the last of the 
posy gathered at home, and thrown away 
drooping into a corner of the dressingroom, 



SOCIAL LIFE 83 



off the verandah. This is subhme courage , 
indeed. As one looks at him , one is re- 
minded of Indian braves, who, at the first 
outburst of the war-hoop, put on their very 
best pamt and shiniest mocassins , and hurry 
to the gathering of the chiefs , there to dance 
the war-dance: not inelegantly, nor without 
hidden meaning: each prance and twirl, a 
prophesy of scalp-wreathed triumphs. 

But dancing — hke virtue — may be argued 
to be its own reward. And, as such, it but 
partially fits into the systems of amusements 
considered as a means to preferment. For 
the triumph of the principle, commend me 
to a reception. Each great man's day — for 
it is his, observe, and not his wife's — is an- 
nounced beforehand in the newspapers, or 
printed, one in a long list, on a separate 
slip of paper, which you must stick up in 
the corner of your mirror: so that there 
shall be no pretext for ignorance. To make 
assurance doubly sure, you put a pencil 
mark against the name and „day" of your 
own particular great man. On the appointed 



84 SOCIAL LIFE 



date, as the clock strikes seven, you go. 
From afar you see the blaze of his iront 
gallery: the drive shines with multitudinous 
carriage-lamps, and every now and then, 
as another vehicle draws up , the master of 
the house is seen descending the verandah- 
steps , to help some lady to alight from her 
carriage, with grave courtesy offering her 
his arm to conduct her towards the hostess. 
She rises , extends a welcoming hand , begs 
her newly-arrived guest to be seated, and 
resumes a languid conversation with the 
great lady at her right. Unless , indeed , the 
new arrival be a greater lady , in which case 
the former occupant wlU. cede to her the place 
of honour, and content herself with the next. 
Soon, around the big marble-topped table, 
the circle is drawn, one-half of it shining 
like the rainbowed sky: the other black as 
innermost darkness: one semi-circle of women: 
another of men: as strictly separeted as we 
are taught that the sheep and goats shall be , 
on a certain day. I cannot but think that 
the men must be conscious of the fact, and 



SOCIAL LIFE 85 



its dire symbolism. For , as often as not , they 
get up , and stand unhappily together in the 
farthest corner of the verandah, and, with 
cigars and cigarettes, make little clouds to 
liide themselves from the children of the light 
shining afar off, and drink sherry out of little 
glasses , and in deep meditation. Until , sud- 
denly , the booming of the eight o'clock gun - 
breaks the spell. Every watch is taken out 
of every waistcoat-pocket, and set aright. 
Every countenance brightens , and the great- 
est man of all — not Lancelot, nor any lesser 
man, for his life! — catching a look from his 
lady , sitting mournful in her place , steps 
forward, and boldly claims her for his own 
again. Then the others foUow , the host still 
conducting each fair one back to her car- 
riage : and in another moment the verandah 
is left desolate , and that reception is a thing 
of the past. 

Not more than two or three of the gviests 
have interchanged a word with either host J 
or hostess beyond the conventional phrases 
of welcome and good bye; and unless some 



86 SOCIAL LIFE 
( 



members of the same coterie have been sitting 
together, — Batavia society is as full of cote- 
ries as a pine-apple is of seeds — they have 
not had much conversation among themsel- 
ves either. Of pleasure, there has been no- 
thing, of profit so much as may be derived 
from seeing and being seen. It is almost as 
it was at the Court of Louis XIV. Acte de 
presence has been made: and that is all; 
but , as it seems , it is enough. This is , indeed , 
a triumph of the bureaucratic principle. 

In "Java"— as tlie Batavians call the rest 
of the island , in curious contradistinction to 
the capital — this principle rules Avith even 
greater despotism: it assumes the impor- 
tance of an article of faith. Batavia, after 
aU, that "suburb of the Hague," is too much 
influenced by the manners and opinions of 
the Mother Country to be accounted a colo- 
nial town. And, among the colonial ideas 
it is gradually discarding, is that one 
of the extreme importance and superemi- 
nence of office. In Holland, society metes 
with a different measure. And the know- 



SOCIAL LIFE 87 

ledge, perpetually forced on him, that the 
Honourable of Batavia must sink into plain 
Mr. Jansen or Smit of the Hague, is sober- 
ing enough to keep the vanity of even the 
most arrogant official withia decent limits. 
Not to mention the fact that, among his 
fellow-citizens, there is a large proportion 
of non-officials, not at all eager to acknow- 
ledge even his temporary superiority. But 
in "Java," where communication with the 
{ civLLi z ed world \ is much less frequent and 
much more difficult, old colonial notions 
have retained their pristine vigour. The "Re- 
sident" of a little Java station is still very 
much what his predecessor, the "Merchant," 
was in the days of the East-India Company: 
a veritable little king. The gilt „payong" 
held over his head on official occasions 
seems a royal canopy, and his gold-laced 
uniform-cap a kingly crown in the eyes of 
his temporary subjects. The native chiefs 
revere him as their "elder brother". His own 
subordinates naturally look up to hun. The 
planters, who, in their transactions with the 



SOCIAL LIFE 



native population — bad keepers of contracts, 
on the whole — are dependant upon his 
decision, need to be, and to continue on 
good terms with him. And when it is further 
taken into consideration that the social life 
of the station must be exactty what he choo- 
ses to make it, it will be evident why 
even absolutely independent persons should 
seek to be in his good graces. Thus the 
man lives in an atmosphere of adulation. If 
there be a lack of humour or an abundance 
of vanity in his composition, he will take 
his pseudo-royalty seriously, and strictly 
exact homage. But, in the opposite case, and 
when he is even averse to it, it will be still 
pressed upon him. An anecdote illustrating 
this was told me, the other day, by an offi- 
cial, himself the object, or, as he put it, 
the victim, of this particular kind of hero- 
worship. 

He was driving at a rapid pace , down one 
of the precipitous Preanger roads, when the 
horse stumbled and feU, his hght dog-cart 
was upset, and he himself flung out of the 



SOCIAL LIFE 89 

seat. He had barely recovered from the strni- 
nmg fall, when he caught sight of the Se- 
cretary — who had been following in his own 
carriage — coming boimding down the steep 
road hke a big india-rubber ball , rolling over 
and over in the dust. "Hullo , Jansen ! have 
you been upset , too ?" — "No , Resident ," sput- 
ters the fat little man, scrambling to his 
feet again , "but I thought the R-Resident 
1-1-leaps, I leap, too!" 

And here is the pendent: 

In the latest cholera-scare, an old lady, 
the widow of a comptroller, had been left 
the sole European resident of her station , 
all the others having left for the hills. The 
Resident, surmising inability to meet the 
expenses of travel to be the reason of her 
staying on, offered to convey her to a bun- 
galow in the hills , which his own family was 
then occupying. The old lady came to thank 
him for the proposal. Bvit she could not , she 
said , accept it. She judged her hour had come ; 
and she was not afraid of death. Only one 
favour she would beg from the Resident. It 



90 SOCIAL LIFE 



should be remembered that her husband had 
been a comptroller, and that, as his widow, 
she was in rank superior to aU the European 
inhabitants of the station, coming second 
after the Resident himself. Now her request 
was this ; would the Resident be so good as 
to leave written instructions , in case they 
both should die, to the effect that her grave 
should be dug next to his? 

One would expect such an excess of bureau- 
cratic etiquette to breed dullness and con- 
straint unspeakable. And it certainly some- 
what galls the new-comer. But it is all an 
affair of custom, and, after a while, these 
ceremonious manners come to seem as natu- 
ral and necessary as the ordinary courtesies 
of life, and not a whit more detrimental to 
the pleasantness of social intercourse. Indeed , 
one sometimes sees positions reversed, and 
Netherlands-Indians accusing Hollanders of 
stiffness. And it must be owned that the 
new-comer, in Batavia Society, is struck by 
a certain grace and easiness of manner that 
contrasts forcibly with the somewhat frigid 



SOCIAL LIFE 91 



reserve of the typical Hollander : as forcibly as 
a seventeenth-century famil}' mansion on the 
Heerengracht , solid, imposing, and gloomy 
as a fortress , contrasts with an airy Batavia 
bungalow, where birds build their nests on 
the capitals of the columms , and the white- 
ness of the floor is tinged with slanting sun- 
beans and reflections of tall-leaved plants. 
And, analogous contasts meet one at every 
step. Life here has less dignity than it has 
in the mother country ; but it has more grace. 
Of its — real or seeming — necessaries, not a 
few are lacking. But what was that saying 
about the wisdom of striving for the super- 
fluities , and caring naught for the necessaries 
of life? Existence in Netherlands-India is based 
upon this principle. The superfluous is striven 
for^rihe^richness _and the romance,.of things : 
and everyday-life is the more acceptable for 
it. The comparatively poor in the colony fare 
better than the comparatively rich at home. 
Thy have more leisure , greater comforts , and 
better opportunities for amusement. Hence, 
the prevalene of „mondain" manners. 



92 SOCIAL LIFE 



Hospitality is another characteristic of the 
average Netherlands-Indian. In the mother 
country , a man's house is his castle : but in 
Java it is the castle of his guest. And his 
guest is practically, whoever hkes , a relation , 
a friend, a mere acquintance, an utter 
stranger, his name not so much as heard 
of before, who comes "to bring the greetings 
of a friend" — as the pretty, old fashioned 
phrase has it: and he wiU meet with the 
most cordial of welcomes. People are not 
content with simply receiving a guest: they 
feast hun. And, when hospitality is offered, 
it is meant , not for days , but for weeks. To 
stay for two or three months at a friend's 
house is nothing out of the common: and 
this not for a single person merely, but for 
a whole family — parents, children, servants, 
and aU. I know I am speaking within the 
mark: having myself been one of nine guests, 
four of whom, had been staying for some 
weeks already at a hospitable house in Ba- 
tavia. And in "Java" — were hotels are bad 
_aBd-... rail ways few and far between, lOs by 



SOCIAL LIFE 93 



no means rare to find an even more nume- 
rous company foregathered at the house of 
the Resident, who thus "does the honours" 
of an entne district; or at the bungalows of 
rich planters , jealously competiug with the 
official for what they consider the privilege 
rather than the duty of hospitality. They 
~excercise it in a truly princely way. A well- 
known tea-planter, some time ago, celebrat- 
ing his silver wedding, commemorated the 
event by an entertainment, which lasted for 
three days, and to which a hundred and 
fifty guests were invited. Bamboo huts had 
been erected for those who could not be 
accommodated in the house: barns were 
converted into ball-rooms and dining-haUs: 
and the native population of half the district 
came and was welcomed to its share of the 
feast. 

This, of course, is a signal instance: but 
the tendency which it illustrates is a very 
general one, so much so, in fact, that it 
has influenced domestic architecture, and 
rendered the pavilion (the colonial equiva- 



94 SOCIAL LIFE 



lent for our „ spare room") as indispensable 
a part of the house as the bath-room and the 
kitchen. — Sometimes indeed the pavilion is 
let. But generally it remains dedicated to 
the uses of hospitality, and still awaits 
the „ coming and going man," as the Dutch 
phrase has it. At its door welcome for 
ever smiles , and farewell goes out weeping. 
Welcome. Farewell. Here, in Batavia, the 
short significant words ever and again fall 
upon the ear, recurrent in conversations as 
the deep, dominant bassnote that sends a 
repeated vibration through all the changes 
and modulations of a melody: far off and 
distinct, as the moan of circling seas, heard 
in the central dells of an island where the 
clear-throated tlirushes sing. The sensation 
of the temporary, the transitory, and the 
uncertain that thrills the atmosphere of a 
sea-port is in the air of this seemingly-quiet 
inland town. It is a common saying here , 
that one should not make plans for more 
than a month beforehand. But even a month 
seems almost too bold a reaching into futu- 



SOCIAL LIFE 95 



rity, when every day is full of chances and 
changes, and the aspect of things alters 
over-night. A promotion , an attack of fever, 
a fluctuation in the sugar or tobacco mar- 
ket, a letter from Holland — and friends are 
separated , homes broken up , and careers 
changed. 

The effects of this living on short notice, 
if I may so call it, are perceptible in every- 
thing pertaining to colonial customs , ideas , 
and society. I entered , the other day , one 
of those ancient mansions long ago degraded 
to offices of "the old city." The armorial 
bearings of the patrician , who buUt it in the 
beginning of the century, still ornament the 
entrance. There are stucco mouldings over 
the doors that lead into the great, half dark 
chambers. A trace of gold and bright colours 
is stiU discernible on the blinds of the tall 
lattice windows, the glass of which shines 
wilh the iridescent colours that so many 
days of sunshine and of rain have wrought 
into it ; and the great staircase has an oaken 
balustrade richly sculptured in the style of 



96 SOCIAL LITE 



the 17*1^ century. The paint might be gone, 
the mouldings choked with dust and cob- 
webs, the sculptured ornaments of the ba- 
lustrade defaced; but there was not a stone 
loose in thoose massive old walls nor a plank 
rotten in the floor. Yet, it had been aban- 
doned. And so has the conception of life , of 
which it was the visible and tangible ex- 
pression. Much hard-and-fastness of tradition 
and convention has been done away with. 
Where cu-cumstances change so frequently 
opinions must likewise change. As a re- 
sult a certain liberality of thought has come 
to be a characteristic of colonial society. 
There is something generous and truly hu- 
mane in the opinions one hears currently 
professed, and the courage to act up to these 
convictions is not wanting. But on the other 
hand delicacy , chivalry and what one might 
call the decorum of the heart, are on the whole 
sadly wanting. The general tone is somewhat 
"robustious": this is perhaps an effect of the 
climate and soil, allegorically speaking. — 
One hears man)^ and strange things justified 



SOCIAL LIFE 97 



or at least excused on that score. — On the 
whole, and to give a general idea of Ba- 
tavia society, I fancy one might compare it - 
to that of some rich provincial town. There 
is the same eagerness for precedence , the 
same intimacy and tattle and neighbourly 
kindness, the same high living and plain 
thinkiag. But, in the little provincial town, 
there is . not such freedom from narrowness J 
and prejudice, nor is there so much hard 
work done under such unfavourable circum- 
stances, nor so much home sickness and 
anxiety and lonely sorrow so bravety borne, 
as in Batavia. 



Glimpses of Native Life 

A just appreciation of sentiments and mo- 
tives repugnant to our own is among the 
most difficult of intellectual feats. The Ger- 
mans express their sense of this truth by a 
concise and vigorous , if not altogether ele- 
gant saying: "No man can get out of his 
own skin, and into his neighbour's." A dif- 
ference of colour between the said skins, it 
may be added, withholds even adventurous 
souls from attempting the temporary trans- 
migration. And the wisdom of nations, brown 
and white, sanctions this diffidence. In Java 
Occidentals and Orientals have been dwel- 
ling together for about three centuries. They 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 99 

have become conversant with each other's 
language , opinions , and affairs : they are 
brought into a certain mutual dependence, 
and into daily and hourly contact: there is 
no arrogance or conterapt on the one side, 
no abject fear or hatred on the other; no 
wilful prejudice, it would seem, on either. But 
the Hollanders do not understand the Java- 
nese, nor do the Javanese understand the 
Hollanders , in any true sense of the word. So 
that it seems the part of wisdom to acknow- 
ledge this at the outset, merely stating that 
the notions of nice and nasty, fair and foul, 
right and wrong , such as they obtain among 
the two nations are antagonistic. Anyway, 
on the part of a casual observer, such as 
the present writer, any further criticisms 
would be presumptuous and almost inevitably 
unjust: wherefore, such will be refrained 
from. 

But, whereas I freely confess that the 
inner life of the Javanese has remained hid- 
den from me, their outward existence has 
become familiar enough. The Javanese prac- 



100 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

tically live out-of-doors. They take their bath 
in the river; perform their toilet under some 
spreading waringin tree, hanging a mirror 
as big as the hand on the rugged stem ; and 
squat down to their meal by the roadside. 
After nightfall, dark figures may be dis- 
cerned around the stalls of fruit- vendors , 
fantastically lit up by the uncertain flame 
of an oil- wick. And, in the dry season, they 
often sleep on the moonlit sward of some 
garden, or on the steps of an untenanted 
house. 

This life seems strange to us Northerners, 
self-constituted prisoners of roots and walls. 
But we have only to look at a Malay, and 
the intuitive conviction flashes on us, that 
it is eminently right and proper for him to 
live in this manner. He is a creature of the 
field. His supple, sinewy frame, his dark 
skin , the far-away look in his eyes , the very 
shape of his feet, with the short, strong 
toes , well separated from one another — his 
whole appearance — immediately suggest a 
background of trees and brushwood , running 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 101 

water , sunlit , wind-swept spaces , and the 
bare brown earth. And the scenery of Java 
with its strange colouring, at once violent 
and dull, its luxuriant vegetation, and its 
abrupt changes in the midst of apparent 
monotony, lacks the final, completing touch 
in the absence of dusky figures moving 
through it. Landscape and people are each 
other's natural complement and explanation. 
Hence, the picturesque and poetic charm of 
the Javanese out-of-doors. 

One of the most fascinating scenes is that 
of the bath in the river , soon after sunrise : 
at Batavia, I have frequently watched it 
from the Tanah Abang embankment. The 
early simlight, — a clear cool yellow, with 
a sparkle as of topazes in it — makes the 
dewy grass to glisten, and brightens the 
subdued green of the tamarind-trees along 
the river ; between the oblique bars of shadow 
the brownish water gleams golden. On the 
bank, scores of natives are stripping for the 
bath. The men run down, leap into the 
stream, and dive under:' as they come up 



102 GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE 

again, their bare bodies shine like so many- 
bronze statues. The women descend the slope 
with a slower step : they have pulled up their 
sarong over the bosom , leaving their shapely- 
shoulders bare to the sun. At the edge of 
the water they pause for an instant, lifting 
both arms to twist their hair into a knot 
on the summit of the head: then, entering, 
they bend do-wn, and wet their face and 
breast. Young mothers are there, leading 
their little ones by the hand, and coaxing 
them step by step further into the shallow 
stream. Crowds of small boys and girls have 
taken noisy possession of the river , plunging 
and splashing and calling out to each other , 
as they swim about, kicking up the water 
at every stroke of their sturdy little feet. ^ 
Whilst, half hidden in a clump of tall-leaved 
reeds by the margin, the yomig girls are 
disporting themselves , making believe to 
bathe , as they empty little buckets , made 
of a palmleaf, over each other's head and 
shoulders, xmtil their black hair shines, and 
the running water draws their garments into 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LITE 103 

flowing , clinging folds , that mould their lithe 
little figures from bosom to ankle. Then, 
perhaps , all of a sudden , a bamboo raft 
will appear round the bend of the river: or 
a native boat, its inmates sitting at their 
morning meal under the awning: and some 
friendly talk is exchanged between them 
and the bathers, as the craft makes its 
way through the slowly-dividing groups. 
One day I saw a broad, brick-laden barge, 
that had thus come lumbering down the 
stream, run aground on the shallows: the 
men jumped out, and began puUing and 
shoving to get it afloat again. The water 
dripped from their legs and their tucked-up 
sarongs, and their backs gleamed in the 
sunshine, as, almost bent double, they urged 
the ponderous thing forward. But still, the 
bright red heap remained stationary. Sud- 
denly , a young boy , who had just stripped 
for the bath came down the embankment with 
a running leap and giving the boat a sudden 
sharp push, sent it darting forward. Then 
he stood up, laughing, and shook back the 



104 GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE 

shock of black hair which had fallen over 
his eyes. He looked like a dusky young 
river god , who out of his kindness had come 
to assist his votaries. 

The flower-market too is a scene of idyllic 
grace, when, after their early bath in the 
river , the women come trooping thither , and 
stand bargaining , their hands fall of red and 
pink roses , creamy jessamine , and tubero- 
ses whiter than snow. The Javanese have a 
great love of flowers , though , apparently , 
they take no trouble to raise them in their 
gardens. In Batavia , at least , I never saw any 
growing near their cottages in the kampong: 
save perhaps the sturdy hibiscus in hedges, 
and that large white, odoriferous convolvulus 
which the wind sows along roadsides and 
hedgerows — the "beauty-of-the-night." And 
they do not seem to care for a handful 
of flowers in a vase, to brighten the semi- 
darkness of their little p^gar huts. 

But the women are hardly ever seen with- 
out a rosebud or tuberose-blossom twined 
into their hair, and the men not unfre- 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 105 

quently have one stuck behind the ear, or 
between the folds of their headkerchief As 
for the children, their bare brown little 
bodies are hung with tandjong wreaths. The 
plucked-out petals of aU manner of fragrant 
flowers are used to scent the water which 
the women pour over their long black hair, 
after washing it with a decoction of charred 
leaves and stalks; and, together with am- 
bergris, and a sweet smelling root, called 
"aldiar wanggi," dried flowers are strewn 
between the folds of their holiday-attire. Like 
all Orientals, the Javanese are excessively 
fond of perfumes : which , no doubt , partially 
explains their profuse use of strongly-scented 
flowers. But that, apart from the merely 
sensual enjoyment of the smell, they prize 
flowers for the pleasure afforded to the eye 
by their tints and shapes, is proved by the 
frequency with which floral designs occur 
on their clothes and ornaments. The full 
globes of the lotos-buds , the disc of the un- 
folded flower with leaves radiating, its curi- 
ously-configurated pistil , are recognized again 



106 aLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE 

and again on the scabbards and handles of 
the men's poniards and on the girdle-clasps 
and the large silver kabaya-brooches of the 
women. The fine cloth for sarongs is decorat- 
ed with fanciful delineations of the flowers 
that blow in every field and meadow, their 
caUxes and curly tendrils sprouting amidst 
figures of wide-mouthed dragons , fanged and 
clawed. Moreover , for their hidden virtues , 
and the sacred meanings of which they are 
the symbol, flowers are by the natives asso- 
ciated with aU the principal acts and circum- 
stances of their lives — with joy and sorrow 
and ceremony, and the service of the gods. 
When the village folk, donning their holi- 
day-attire , go forth to the festive planting 
of the rice , or the gathering , stalk by stalk, 
of the ripe ears , they wear wreaths of 
flowers twined in their hair. At the feast of 
his circumcision, the boy is crowned with 
them. They are the chief ornament of lovers 
on their marriage day — gleaming in the 
elaborate head-dress of the bride , and dang- 
ling down as a long fringe from the groom's 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 107 

golden diadem: wreathing the scabbard of 
his poniard; and girdling his naked waist, 
all yellow with boreh powder. They are 
brought in solemn offering to the dead, 
when , on the third , the seventh , the fortieth , 
the hundredth, and the thousandth day, the 
kinsman visit the grave of the departed 
one, to pray for the welfare of his soul, and 
in retxrrn unplore his protection , and that of 
all the ancestors up to Adam and Eve, the 
parents of man-kind. And lastly, flowers 
are thought the most acceptable offering to 
the gods, the ancient gods whom no vio- 
lence of Buddhist or Mohammedan invader 
has succeeded in ousting from that safe 
sanctuary, the people's heart, which they 
share now, in mutual good- will and tole- 
rance, with the Toewan Allah, "besides 
whom there is no God". Under some huge 
waringin tree, at the gate of a town or vil- 
lage, an altar is erected to the tutelary 
genius, the "Danhjang Dessa," who has his 
abode in the thick-leaved branches. And the 
pious people , whenever they have any impor- 



108 GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE 

tant business to transact, come to it, and 
bring a tribute of franldncense and flowers , 
to propitiate the god , and implore his protec- 
tion and assistance , that the matter they have 
taken in hand may prosper. On the way from 
Batavia to Meester Cornells , there stands such 
a tree by the road-side, an immense old 
waringin, in itself a forest. And the rude 
altar in its shade , fenced off from the public 
road by a wooden railing, from sunrise to 
sunset is fragrant with floral offerings. 

There are several flower-markets in Batavia. 
But I have taken a particular fancy to the 
one held at Tanah Abang, not far from the 
bend in the river, where I saw my two 
little naiads frolicking among the rushes. 
Its site is a somewhat singularly chosen one 
for the purpose, near the entrance of the 
cemetery, and in the shadow of the huge 
old gateway, the superscription on which 
dedicates the place to the repose of the dead, 
and to their pious memory. In its deep, 
dark arch, as in a black frame, is set a 
vista of dazzling white-plastered tombstones, 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 109 

pillars, and obelisks huddled into irregular 
groups, with here and there a figure hewn 
in fair white marble soaring on outstretched 
wings, and everywhere a scintillation as of 
molten metal— the colourless , intolerable glare, 
to which the fierce sunlight fires the corrugated 
zinc of the roofs protecting the monmnents. 
But on the hither side of the gateway 
there are restful shadow and coolness. Some 
ancient gravestones pave the ground, as it 
it were the floor of an old village church — 
bluish-grey slabs emblazoned with crests and 
coats-of-arms in worn away bas-relief Heral- 
dic beasts are still faintly discernible on 
some; and long Latin epitaphs, engraved in 
the curving characters of the seventeenth 
century, may be spelt out, recording names 
which echo down the long corridors of time 
in the history of the colony: and, oddly 
latinized, the style and title bestowed on 
the deceased by the Lords Seventeen , rulers 
of the Honourable East India Company — the 
Company of Far Lands, as in the olden 
time it was called. 



110 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

Hither , before the sun is fairly risen , come 
a score of native flower-sellers , shivering in 
the morning air; who spread squares of 
matting on the soil, and, squatting down, 
proceed to arrange the contents of their 
heaped-up baskets. The bluish-grey grave- 
stones , with the coats of arms and long 
inscriptions , are covered with heaps of flowers : 
creamy melati as delicate and sharply-defined 
in outline , as if they had been carved out of 
ivory: pink and red roses with transparent 
leaves , that cling to the touch ; tjempakah- 
telor, great smooth globes of pearly white- 
ness ; the long calixes of the cambodja-blossom, 
in which tints of yellow and pink and purple 
are mixed as in an evening sky ; the tall 
sceptre of the tuberose, flower- crowned ; and 
"pachar china," which seems to be made out 
of grains of pure gold. 

Some who know the tastes of the "orang 
blandah" have brought flowering plants to 
market , mostly Mahnaison roses and tiny Ja- 
panese lilies , just dug up , the earth still 
clinging to their delicate roots : or they sit 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 111 

binding wax- white gardenias , violet scabiosa , 
and leaves as downy and grey as the wings 
of moths into stiff clumsy wreaths; for 
they have learnt that the white folks choose 
flowers of these dull tints to lay upon the 
tombs of their dead. And there is one old 
man, brown, shrunken, and wrinkled, as if 
he had been made out of the parched earth 
of the cemetery , who sells handfuls of plucked- 
otit petals, stirring up now and then, with 
his long finger, the soft, fragrant heap in 
his basket — thousands of brilliantly-coloured 
leaflets. 

About seven o'clock, the customers, al- 
most exclusively women, arrive, fresh from 
their bath in the neighbouring river. They 
form picturesque groups on the sunny 
road, those slender figures in their bright- 
hued garments , pink , and red , and green , 
their round brown faces and black hair , still 
wet and shining, framed in the yellow 
aureole of the payong *) which they hold 

*) The payong is an umbrella, quite flat when spread 
out, of yellow oiled paper. 



112 aLIMPSBS OF NATIVE LIFE 

spread out behind their head. And the quiet 
spot in the shadow of the cemetery gate is 
alive with their high-pitched twittering voices , 
as they go about from one flower-seller to 
another, bargaining for jessamines , orange- 
blossoms, and tiny pink roses, which, with 
deft fingers, they twist into the glossy coil 
of their "kondeh." 

Javanese women are most pardonably 
proud of their hair. It is somewhat coarse, 
but very long and thick and of a brilliant 
black , with bluish gleams in it : and it pret- 
tily frames their broad forehead with regular , 
well-defined curves and points. They take 
great care of it , too , favourably contrasting , 
in this respect, with European women of 
the lower classes , though some of their 
methods , it must be owned , are repugnant to 
European notions of decency. As they bathe, 
and sleep, and eat in public, so, in public, 
they cleanse each other's hair. A woman 
will squat down in some shady spot by the 
roadside, and, shaking loose her coiled-up 
hair , submit to the manipulations of a friend , 




Clasp for fastening a kabaya in front. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 113 

who parts the strands with her spread-out 

fingers , and removes superfluities , with 

quick monkey-like gestures. What would you 
have? "The country's manner, the country's 
honour," as the Dutch proverb hath it. This 
particular way of cleansing the hair is a 
national institution among the Javanese. 
And , as such , it is celebrated in the legends 
of the race, and in the tales of the olden 
time , which are stiU repeated , of an evening, 
among friends. 

The scholar of the party, by the light of 
an oil- wick, reads from a greasy manuscript 
which he has hired for the evening at the 
price of one "pitji" *). It is the story of the 
beautiful beggarmaid, who wanders from 
village to village. She does not know her own 
name or who were her parents, having, in 
infancy, been stolen by robbers. One day, 
she comes begging to the gates of the palace. 
The Rajah orders the guards to admit the 
suppliant, and his Raden-Ajoe queen causes 



*) About twopence. 



114 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIEB 

a repast to be prepared for her. They are 
kind towards those in affliction, having 
known great sorrow themselves : for their 
only child, a daughter, mysteriously disap- 
peared years and years ago: and now they 
are old and childless. The Rajah, gazing 
upon the stranger, frequently sighs: his 
daughter would have grown up to be a mai- 
den as fair , if she had Hved. And the Raden- 
Ajoe, taking her by the hand, bids her sit 
down , and unloose those glossy locks , worthy 
to be wreathed with the fragrant blossom of 
the asana. She herself will cleanse them. Then , 
as she parts the long braids , ah ! there upon 
the crown, behold the cicatrice which her 
httle daughter had! The long-lost one is 
found again. 

In Javanese fairy tales the long locks of 
nymphs and goddesses are treasured as ta- 
Hsmans by the hero who has been fortunate 
enou.gh to obtain one. There is great virtue 
for instance, in the long hair of the Ponti- 
anak , the cruel sprite that haunts the warin- 
gin tree. Have you never seen her gUde by. 



GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE 115 

white in the white moonHght? Have you 
never heard her laugh, loud and long, when 
all was still? She is the soul of a dead virgin , 
whom no lover ever kissed. And now she 
cannot rest, because she never knew love: 
and she would fain win it yet; though not in 
kindness now , but in spite and deadly malice. 
She sits in the branches of trees , softly sing- 
ing to herself, as she combs her long hair. 
And when a young man , hearing her song , 
pauses to listen , she meets him , in the sem- 
blance of a maid faner than the bride of 
the Love-god , and raises soft eyes to him 
and smiling lips. But, when he would em- 
brace her , he feels the gaping woimd in her 
back, which she had concealed under her 
long hair. And , as he stands speechless with 
horror, she breaks away from him with a 
long loud laugh, and cries: "Thou hast kis- 
sed the Pontianak, thou must die!" And, 
ere the moon is full again , his kinsmen will 
have brought- flowers to his grave. But, if he 
be quick-witted and courageous , he will seize 
the evil spirit by her flying locks: and, if 



116 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

he succeeds but in plucking out one single 
hail', he will not die, but live to a great 
age, rich, honoured, and happy, the hus- 
band of a rajah's daughter and the father of 
princes. 

Some men are fortunate, however, from 
their birth, and do not need the Pontianak's 
long hair; that is because their own grows 
in a tpecuhar manner, from two circular 
spots near the crown. To the owner of such 
a "double crown ," nothing adverse can ever 
happen. All his wishes will be fulfilled, and 
he will prosper in whatever matter he sets 
his hand to. 

Again, it is not men alone that are thus 
visibly mai'ked by fate. In the crinklings of 
the hair on a horse's neck, the wise read 
plain signs of good or bad fortune by which 
it is made manifest whether the horse will 
be lucky and carry his rider to honour and 
happiness ; or unlucky and maim or even 
kill him. That is the great point about a 
horse : the way in which the hair on his neck 
grows. If therefore you should find the auspi- 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 117 

cious sign on him , buy the animal , whatever 
may be the price and however old , ugly , or 
weak he may seem to the ignorant. But , if you 
find the sign of iU-luck , send him away at 
once, and cause the marks of his hoofs to 
be carefuUy obliterated from the path that 
leads to your door ; for if you neglect this pre- 
caution , great disaster raay be brought upon 
you and all your house. Reflect upon this 
and the true significance of the history ot 
Damocles will be revealed to you. In truth, 
all fortune , good or bad , hangs by a single 
hair. 

After the bath, the Javanese proceeds to 
take his morning meal ; and this , again is 
a public performance. The noon repast — the 
only solid one in the day — is prepared and 
eaten at home. But, for the morning and 
evening meals, the open air and the cuisine 
of the warong are preferred. The warong is 
the native restaurant. There are many kinds 
and varieties of it : from its most simple and 
compendious shape — two wooden cases , the 
one containing food, prepared and raw; the 



118 GLIMPSES or NATIVE LIFE 

other , a chafing-dish full of live coals , and 
a supply of crockery — to its fully-developed 
form, the atap-covered hut. There, a dozen, 
and more customers hold their symposia 
presided over by the owner, who sits cross- 
legged on the counter amid heaps of fruit, 
vegetables, and confectionery. All manner 
of men meet here : drivers of sadoos or hack 
carriages , small merchants , artizans , Grovern- 
ment clerks, policemen, water-carriers, ser- 
vants, hadjis, *) not to mention the "cor- 
responding" womankind. They talk, they 
talk! and they laugh! The affairs of all Ba- 
tavia are discussed here — matters of business, 
intrigue, love, money, office, everything, 
material to make a Javanese Decamerone 
of, if a Boccaccio would but come and put 
it into shape. There are several of these 
warongs about Tanah-Abang and the Ko- 
ningsplein, and, of course, in the native 
quarters. But the smaller , portable ones are 



*) Title given to those who have performed the pilgrimage 
to Mecca. 




A native restaurant in its simplest and most compendious shape. 




Here they are : plaything-less naked, and supremely happy. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LITE 119 



found everywhere: by the river-side, at the 
railway stations, at the sadoo-stands , along 
the canals, at the coraers of the streets; 
and they seem to do a thriving business. 

Each of these itinerant cooks has his 
own place on the pavement, or in the 
avenue, recognised as such by the tacit 
consent of the others. Hither he comes trud- 
ging, in the early morning, carefully balan- 
cing his cases at the end of the long bamboo 
yoke, so as not to break any of the dozens 
of cups , glasses , and bottles on his tray : 
then, having disposed his commodities in 
the most appetizing manner, he stirs up 
the charcoal in the chafing-dish, and begins 
culinary operations. One of these is the 
preparation of the coffee — which consists in 
pouring boiling water upon the leaves , instead 
of the berries , of the coffee tree, after the man- 
ner of some Arab tribes. Sometimes , however , 
the berries also are used, and the infusion 
is sweetened with lumps of the dark-brown, 
faintly flavoured sugar that is won from the 
areng-pahn. Then the rice — the principal dish 



120 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

of tMs , as of any other meal — is boiled ia 
a conical bag of plaited palm fibre: and, 
when ready, is made up into heaped-up 
portions , with , perhaps , a bit of dried fish 
and some shreds of scarlet lombok *) stuck 
on the top. This is for the soHd part of the 
repast; the dessert is next thought of It is 
ready in the portable cupboard — the thrifty 
wife of the vendor having risen long before 
dawn to prepare it — and is now set forth, 
on strips of torn-up banana-leaf, as on plates 
and saucers ; green and white balls of rice- 
meal, powdered over with rasped cocoa-nut, 
orange cakes of Indian corn, shaking pink 
jellies , and slices of some tough dark-brown 
stuff. The cool fresh green of the banana-leaf 
makes the prettiest contrast imaginable to 
all these colours: its silky surface and faint 
fragrance giving, at the same time, an im- 
pression of dainty cleanliness such as could 
never be acliieved by even the most spotless 
linen and china of a European dining-table. 



*) The seed-capsules of the red pepper -plant. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 121 

The Javanese are very frugal eaters. A 
handful of rice with a pinch of salt, and, 
perhaps, a small dried fish being sufficient 
for a day's ration. Of course, we, Europeans, 
confessedly, eat too much. But how grossly 
we over-eat ourselves , can only be realized 
on seeing a Javanese subsisting on about 
a tenth part of our own daily allowance, 
and doing hard work on that — labouring in 
the field , travelling on foot for days together, 
and carrying heavy loads without apparent 
over-exertion. 

However, though so abstemious in the 
matter of solid food, they are excessively 
fond of sweetmeats. I have often watched a 
party of grown men and women, seated on 
the low bench in front of a warong , and eating 
kwee-kwee *) with perfectly childish relish: 
or bending over a stall, gravely comparing 
the respective charms of white, pink, and 
yellow cakes ; hesitating , consulting the con- 
fectioner, and at last solving the difficulty 



*) Malay for "cakes." 



122 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

by eating a little of everything. Whatever 
ready money they may chance to have, is 
spent either on personal adornment or on 
sweetmeats: and on festive occasions , they wUl 
pawn their furniture rather than deny them 
selves the enjoyment of more cakes , jellies , 
fruit and syrups than they can partake of 
without making themselves sick and sorry. 
And not only do they over-eat themselves, 
but they force their children to do the same. 
Though left , in almost all other respects , to 
chance and the guidance of its own instincts , a 
native child is not trusted to eat alone. The 
mother's idea seems to be that, if left to 
itself, her child would never eat at all: and 
that it is her plain duty to correct this 
mistake in nature's plan. Wherefore, having 
prepared a mess of rice and banana, she 
lays the little thing fiat on its back, upon 
her knees, takes some of the food between 
the tips of her fingers, kneading it into a 
little lump , and pushes this into the baby's 
mouth, cramming it down the throat with 
her thumb, when the baby, willy nilly, must 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LITE 123 

swallow it. Thus she goes on , the baby alter- 
nately screaming and choking, until she 
judges it has had enough — is full to the brim , 
so to speak , and incapable of holding another 
grain of rice — when she will set it on its 
feet again, dry the tears off its round cheeks, 
and rock it to sleep against her breast, close- 
folded in the long "slendang." 

A similar principle obtains in education. 
To watch the native schoolmaster drilling 
the Koran into his pupUs , is to be reminded 
of the rice-balls and the maternal thumb. I 
witnessed the scene, the other day, at a 
little school — if a framework of four bam- 
booposts and an "atap" roof deserves that 
name — in a native "kampong" at Meester 
Cornelis *). I had come upon this school quite 
accidentally , in. the course of a ramble along 
the river-side. As I was making my way 
through a plantation of slim young trees , all 
festooned with dangling lianas, I had been 
conscious for some minutes of a droning and 



*) A suburb of Batavia. 



124 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 



buzzing sound, somewhere near me, and 
fancied it to be the humming of bees , hover 
ing over the lantana-blossoms that covered 
the steep bank of the river with flames of 
red and orange, and filled the air with their 
pungent scent. But, suddenly, I caught the 
word „ Allah:" and, the next moment, I Wcis 
standing in an open space in the midst of 
some ten or twelve bamboo huts. One of these, 
evidently, was a school: and the droning 
noise I had heard proceeded from an old 
spectacled schoolmaster, who was reading 
aloud — or, rather, chanting — fi-om a book 
held in his hand. A little boy stood in front 
of him , listening very attentively : and , every 
time the old schoolmaster had completed a 
phrase, the child repeated it in exactly the 
same sing-song, closing his eyes the while, 
and rocking his httle body to and fro. After 
he had finished , another came up ; there 
were some twelve or thirteen seated on a 
sort of bench , awaiting their turn : and they 
went all of them through the same course 
of listenuig and repeating ; the master , now 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 125 

and then, correcting the intonation of some 
plirase. It was the Koran which they were 
thus reciting in the Arabic language. In all 
probahihty, the master did not understand 
a single word of Arabic: assuredly none of 
the boys did. But what of that? They know 
it by heart, from its very first word to its 
very last. They learn to (mis)pronounce the 
Confession of the Unity of God: and they 
are taught to consider themselves Moham- 
medans. That is enough. 

After the early morning meal, the Java- 
nese begin the business of the day. In towns , 
where they are debarred from their natural 
occupation , agriculture , and where , moreover, 
the Chinese artisans and shopkeepers have 
almost entirely ousted them from trade and 
commerce, the majority of the natives, men 
and women, are employed as domestic ser- 
vants in the houses of European residents. 
Hence , but httle is seen of them during the 
greater part of the day. Towards four o'clock , 
they re-appear, and again repan to the kali 
or the canal for a plunge into the tepid water. 



126 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

Cigarettes are lit, sirih-leaves cut up and 
neatly rolled into a quid and some friendly 
conversation is indulged in. In fine weather, 
games are played. 

The behaviour of Javanese at play is one 
of the things which strike most strongly 
upon the Northerner's observation. There is 
nothing here of that vociferous enthusiasm 
which characterises our young barbarians at 
play — no shouts of exultation or defiance , no 
applause, no derision, no cries, no quar- 
relling or noisy contest. Prom beginning to 
end of the game, a sedate silence prevails. 
This is not, as might be imagined, due to 
apathy and indifference— the Javanese are 
keen sportsmen, and often stake compara- 
tively important sums on the issue of a game 
— but the effect of an etiquette which con- 
demns demonstrativeness as vulgar. Outward 
placidity must be maintained, whatever the 
stress of the emotions , and whether circum- 
stances be important or trivial. Hence, the 
apparent calm of Javanese at play, even 
when engaged m games that most excite 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIEE 127 

their naturally fierce passions of ambition 
and envy. The winner does not seem elated : 
the loser is not spiteful. They are in the full 
sense of the word "beaux joueurs". 

During the East monsoon, when high 
south-easterly winds may be counted upon, 
flying kites is a favorite game; and not only 
with boys, but with grown men. Groups 
of them may often be seen in the squares 
and parks of Batavia or in the fields near 
the town , floating large kites , shaped like 
birds and winged dragons, which, in ascen- 
ding , emit a whistling sound , clear and plain- 
tive as that of a wind-harp. They sometimes 
remain soaring tor days together : and strains 
of that aerial music, attuned in sad „minore," 
float out upon every passing breath of air. 
Passers-by in the street look up, shading 
their eyes from the sun , at the bright things 
soaring and singing in the sky, and dispute 
much about the melodious merits of each. 

The paper singing-birds, called "swangan," 
are very popular with the masses. But the true 
amateurs of the sport prefer another kind, 



1'28 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

the "palembang" and '•'koenchier" kites , which 
do not sing but fight, or, at least, in skil- 
ful hands, can be made to fight. These are 
made of Chinese paper, and decorated with 
the image of some god or hero of Javanese 
mythology. The cord twisted out of strong 
rameh fibre is coated with a paste of pounded 
glass or earthenware, mixed with starch. 
This renders it strong and cutting as steel 
wire. The aim of each player is to make 
the cord of his kite, when up in the air, 
cross his opponent's cord, and then, with a 
swift downward pull , cut it in two : a man- 
oeuvre which requires considerable dexterity. 
The game is played according to strict rules 
and with some degree of ceremony and eti- 
quette, as prescribed by the "adat" — the 
immemorial law of courtesy which , in Java , 
/ regulates aU things , from matters of life 
and death down to the arrangement of a girl's 
scarf and the games which children play. 
When all the kites are well up in the air, 
tugging on the strained cords, each player 
chooses his antagonist. He advances to within 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 129 

a few paces, makes his kite approach the 
other's , all but touch it , swerve , and come 
back: having thus preferi-ed his challenge, 
he retires to the place first occupied. Thither, 
presently, his opponent follows him: and, 
by the exact repetition of his manoeuvre, 
signifies his acceptance of the combat ; retir- 
ing afterwards in the same stately manner. 
Then the contest begins. The agile figures 
of the players dart hither and thither, fit- 
fully, with swift impulse and sudden pause, 
and abrupt swerve, bending this way and 
that, swaying, with head thrown back and 
right arm flung up along the straining cord. 
The groups of spectators , standing well aside 
so as not to interfere with the movements 
of the players , gaze upward with bated breath. 
And , aloft , sparkling with purple and gold , 
their long streamers spread out upon the 
wind , the two kites soar and swoop , swerve, 
plunge a second time, slowly swim upwards 
again, glide a little further, and hang mo- 
tionless. The thin cords are all but invisible; 
the fantastic shapes high in the air seem 

9 



130 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LITE 

animated with a life of their own, wilful^ 
untiring, eager to pursue, and swift to es- 
cape , full of feints and ruses. Suddenly , as 
one again plunges, the other, tranquilly 
sailing aloft, trembles, staggers, tumbles 
over, and leaping up, scuds down the wind 
and is gone. The severed length of cord 
comes down with a thud: and, as the un- 
lucky owner darts away after the fugitive, 
in the forlorn hope of finding it hanging 
somewhere in the branches of a tree, the 
victor lets his kite re-ascend and trium- 
phantly hover aloft, straining against the 
wind , and tugging upon the strong slimy cord 
that has come off scathless from the encounter. 
The aboriginal craving for battle and 
mastery , which , philosophers tell us , is at 
the bottom of aU our games, is even more 
strongly developed in the Javanese than in 
the Caucasian. But the race is not an athletic 
one; immemorial traditions of decorum con- 
demn hurry and violence of movement; and 
active games , su.ch as this of flying kites , 
are the exception. Even at play, the Javanese 



GLIM.PSES OF NATIVE LIPE 131 



JLIM.] 



loves repose: and, when gratifying his com- 
bative instincts, he is mostly content to 
fight by proxy. 

Cocks and crickets are the chosen deputies 
of the town-folk in this matter: and Java- 
nese sportsmen are as enthusiastic about 
them as Spaniards about a toreador or 
Englismen about a prize-fighter. 

The Grovernment forbids the cock-and 
cricket-fights on account of the gambling 
to which they invariably give rise. But 
the police is not omniscient or ubiquitous. 
Where there is a will, there is a way: and, 
in hidden corners, cocks continue to hack, 
and crickets to bite and kick each other to 
the greater amusement of native sporting 
circles. 

On the trainmg of a game-cock , his owner 
spends much time, care, and forethought. 
The bird's diet is regulated to a nicety: so 
much boiled rice per diem, so much water, 
so much meat, hashed fine and mixed with 
medicinal herbs. Once a week , a bath is given 
him, after which he is taken in his coop to 



132 GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE 

a sunny place to dry: and he is subjected 
to a regular course of massage at the hands 
of his trainer, who, taking the bird into his 
lap , with careful iinger and thumb , "pichits" 
or shampoos the muscles of neck , wings , 
and legs, to make them supple and strong. 
Connoisseurs arrive from compound and 
"kampongs" to exchange criticisms. The age , 
strength, and agility of rival birds are dis- 
cussed at length and; finally, when there 
are a sufficient number in good condition, a 
match is arranged. 

The amateurs arrive at the spot, each 
carrying his bird cooped up in a cage of 
banana-leaves, through opposite openings in 
which the head , shorn of its comb , and 
the tail protrude. A ring is formed, every 
one squatting down , with his cage in front of 
him : and the birds are taken out , and passed 
round for general inspection. After careful 
comparison and deliberation, two of approxi- 
mately equal strength are selected as anta- 
gonists: and the umpire, whose office it is 
to arm the birds with the trenchant steel 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 133 

spurs, further equalizes chances by attach- 
ing the weapons of the weaker party to the 
spot where they will prove most effective: 
high up the leg. The owners then take up 
each his own bird , aUow the two to peck at 
each other once or twice: put them down 
upon the ground again: and, at the signal 
given by the mnpire , let go. The cocks fight 
furiously. Generally, one of the two is killed: 
and, almost inevitably, both are cruelly in- 
jured by the long , two-edged knives attached 
to their legs in place of the cut-off spurs. 

Cricket fights do not seem quite as brutal : 
the natural weapons of the httle combatants , 
at least , are not artificially added to ; and 
victory , it appears , is as often achieved by 
courage and skill as by mere force. It is said 
that even more patience is required to train 
a cricket than to train a game-cock; and 
the process certainly seems elaborate. 

First, there is the catching of the "chang- 
krik." For this, the amateur goes, after 
nightfall, to some sohtary spot out in the 
fields or woods — preferably near the grave 



134 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 

of some Moslem saint, or royal hero, or in 
the shadow of some sacred tree, the "chang- 
kriks" caught in these consecrated places 
being considered much superior to those of 
the ditch and garden as participating in the 
virtue of their habitat. Here , then , the ama- 
teur builds some stones into a loose heap, 
hiding in the midst of it a decoy "changkrik" 
in a little bamboo cage ; and retreats. When , 
a little before dawn, he again approaches 
the spot, treading cautiously, and shading 
the light of his little lantern, he is sure 
to surprise quite a company of crickets 
gathered around the mound and crouching 
under the stones , whither they have been 
lured by the shrill song of the captive in- 
sect; and, if he is adroit, he may catch a 
score at a time. Only the finest and strongest 
of these he retains : and straightway the work 
of education is begun. 

This is not easy; for the cricket is among 
the most liberty -loving of animals, and, at first, 
utterly refuses to be tamed. Unless the bamboo, 
of which his little cage is made , be very hard 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 136 

and close-grained, he manages to gnaw his 
way through it; and, when baulked in this 
attempt, tries to shatter the walls of his prison 
by battering them with his horny head , never 
ceasing until he has killed or, at any rate, 
stunned himself. In order to tame him, his 
trainer throws the "changkrik" into a basin 
full of water, and there lets him struggle 
and kick until he is half-drowned and quite 
senseless; then, fishing out the little inert 
body, he puts it in the pahn of his hand, 
and . with a tiny piece of cotton- wool fastened 
to a "Udi"*) begins to stroke and rub it, in 
a kind of liUiputian massage. Then, pulhng 
out a long lank hair from the shock hidden 
under his "kain kapala"t) he dehcately ties 
it round one of the cricket's hind legs, and 
hangs him to a nail , in some cool draughty 
place, where the air may revive him. After 
a couple of hours , perhaps , the tiny creature, 
dangling by one leg, begins to stir. It is 



*) Lidi: — Fibre from the stalk of the palm leaf, 
f) Kain kapala: — Head kerchief 



136 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LITE 

then taken down, warmed in the hollow of 
the hand , encouraged to stand upon its legs, 
and crawl a little way, and, finally, replaced 
in its bamboo cage. It does not again try 
to escape. 

When it has thus been brought to the 
proper frame ot mind, its real education be- 
gins. With a very fine brush , made of grass- 
blossoms, the trainer tickles its head, side, 
and back : a mettlesome individual immedia- 
tely begins to "crick" angrily, and to snap 
at the teasing brush. After some time, he 
flies at the brush as soon as he sees it, hanging 
on to it with his strong jaws , as to a living 
thing. This shows he is in good condition 
for fighting. He is now , for some days , fed 
upon rice sprinkled with cayenne-pepper, to 
"prick him in his courage:" and then taken 
to the arena. His antagonist is there , in his 
narrow bamboo cage, quivering with impa- 
tience under the touch of his trainer's brush 
of grass-blossoius : the cages are placed over 
against one another; and as soon as they 
are opened, the two "changkriks" rush at 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE 137 

each other. The one who is first thrown, or 
who turns tail and flies , is beaten : and great 
is the glory of the victor. The Javanese 
often stake comparatively important sums 
on fighting crickets. And there is always a 
chance that the quarrel of the tiny cham- 
pions may be fought out by their owners. 



Glimpses of Native Life 
in the Streets 

To all other pleasures, the Javanese pre- 
fers that of witnessing a performance of the 
wayang, the native theatre. He is an artist 
at heart , loving sweet sounds , graceful 
movements , and harmonies of bright colour ; 
and aU these he may enjoy at the wayang, 
where, in the pauses of the drama, ballads 
are sung to the tinkling accompaniment of 
the "gameUan," and splendidly-arrayed dan- 
cers put forth "the charm of woven paces 
and of waving hands." There are several 
kinds of "wayang," each having its own 
range of subjects and style of acting: the 



GLIMPSES or NATIVE LIFE IN THE STBEETS 139 

most ancient as well as the most popular, 
however, is the "wayangpoerwa:" the minia- 
ture stage on which the lives and adven- 
tures of Hindoo heroes, queens, and saints 
are acted over again by puppets of gilt and 
painted leather , moving in the hands of the 
"dalang," who recites the drama. 

The "wayang poerwa" is best described as 
a combination of a "Punch-and-Judy" show 
and a kind of "Chinese shadows": and — as 
with the famed shield which was silver on 
one side and gold on the other — its appear- 
ance depends upon the stand-point of the 
spectator. A puppet show to those in front of 
the screen , where the gaudily-painted figures 
are fixed in a piece of banana-stem, it is a 
Chinese lantern to those on the other side, 
who see the shadows projected on the lumin- 
ous canvas. According to ancient custom, 
the men sit in front and see the puppets ; 
the women have their place behind the screen , 
/'mid look on at the play of the shadows. In 
fully-equipped wayangs, as manj-^ as two 
hundred of these puppets are found, each 



140 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 

with its own particular type and garb , 
characteristic of the person represented. 

Certain conventional features , however , 
are repeated throughout as symbols of their 
moral disposition. Long thin noses continuing 
the line of the sloping forehead, narrow, 
slanting eyes, and delicate mouths, firmly 
shut, indicate wisdom and a gentle dispo- 
sition ; a bulging forehead , short thick nose , 
round eyes and gaping mouth, indicate law- 
lessness and violence. No difference is made 
between the portraitures of gods and those 
of mortals: but the Titans are distinguished 
by the size and unwieldiness of their body, 
their staring eyes , and huge teeth , some- 
times resembhng tusks. The bodies and faces 
are indifferently black, blue, white, flesh- 
coloured, or gilt: the colour of the face, 
moreover, often being a different one from 
that of the rest of the person. And all the 
figures are taken in profile. 

The stage on which these puppets are shown 
consists of an upright screen of white sarong 
cloth. A lamp hangs from the top: at the 




?1 


,a 


o 












J3 


-o 


O 
O 

T1 






cJ 






a 


Tl 




c 


o 


cJ 



'■" 


cu 


•n 


CL, 


ri 




rt 


a. 


tfi 


>. 


> 


rd 




r. 










,d 


ba 






j3 












-G 




is 








GLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE IN THE STBEETS 141 



bottom, it has a transverse picco of banana 
stem, into the soft substance of wliich the 
puppets may easily be fixed by means of the 
long sharp point in which their supports 
terminate. The centre of the screen is occu- 
pied by the "gmaungan," the conventionalized 
representation of a wooded hill, which sym- 
bolizes the idea of locality in general, and 
stands for a town, a palace, a lake, a Avell, 
the gate of Heaven, the stronghold of the 
Titans, in short, for any and every place 
mentioned in the course of the drama. It 
thus does the duty of the modern ''coulisse," 
or , better still , of the Shakspearian signboard 
which apprised the spectators that "Thys was 
a wode," or "Thys was a tomae." Among 
the further accessories of the wayang are a 
set of miniature weapons, shields, swords, 
spears, javelins, and „krises," exactly copied 
after those now or formerh" in use among 
Javanese, and otten of the most exquisite 
worlananship , destined to be handled bj'the 
sods and the heroes to whose hands thev 
are very mgeniously adapted. Nor should such 



142 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STBEETS 

items as horses and chariots be forgotten. 
To manoeuvre this lilliputian company of 
puppets is the difficult task of the "dalang". 
In continuance of the Punch-and-Judy 
comparison, the ''dalang" should be called 
the "showman" of the wayang. But he is a 
showman on a grand scale. Not only does 
he make his puppets act their parts of dei- 
ties , heroes , and highborn beauties according 
to the strict canons of Javanese dramatic 
art, observant at the same time of the exigen- 
cies of courtly etiquette: but he must know 
by heart the whole of those endless epics , 
the recitation of which occupies several 
nights : sometimes he himself dramatizes some 
popular myth or legend ; and he must always 
be ready at a moment's notice to imagine 
new and striking episodes, adapt a scene 
from another play to the one he is perform- 
ing,, and improvise dialogues in keeping with 
the character of the dramatis personse. He 
should have an ear for music and a good 
voice , and possess some knowledge of Kawi *) 

*) Ancient Javanese. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 143 

to give at all well the songs written in that 
ancient tongue, which announce the arrival 
of the principal characters on the stage. 
Moreover, he conducts the "gamellan," the 
native orchestra which accompanies every 
representation of the wayang: and finally 
he orders the symbolical dance, which gor^ 
geously-attired "taledeks" execute in the pauses 
of the drama. Manager , actor , musician , sin- 
ger, reciter, improvisator, and all but play- 
wright, he is, in himself, a pleiad of artists. 
But the "dalang's" reward is proportionate 
to those exertions. He and his art are alike 
held in almost superstitious respect. No one 
dreams of criticizing his performances. If he 
wishes to travel, not a town or hamlet but 
will give him an enthusiastic welcome. And, 
at home, he enjoys that princely preroga- 
tive , immunity from taxes , his fellow-citizens 
discharging his obligations in requital of the 
pleasure he procures them by his wayang- 
performances. If nothing else were known 
about them, this one trait, it seems to me, 
would be sufficient to prove the Javanese 



144 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 

to be a people capable of true enthusiasm, 
'^nd a generous conception of life. There is 
something Greek in this notion that holds the 
artist acquitted of all other duties towards the 
State, if he fulfils the supreme one of giving joy. 
At the same time that it is the chief nation- 
al amusement , the wayang-show is , in a 
sense, a religious act, performed in honour 
of the deity, and to invoke the blessing of 
the gods and the favour of the "danhjang 
dessa" and all other good spirits upon the 
giver of the entertainment. The baleful in- 
fluence of the Evil Eye , also , is averted by 
nothing so surely as by a wayang-performance, 
wherefore no enterprise of any importance 
should be entered upon without one of these 
miniature dramatical representations being 
given. Domestic feasts, such as are held at 
the birth of a child, or at his circumcision, 
seldom lack this additional grace. And a 
marriage at which Brahma, Indra, and, above 
all, Ardjuna, the beloved of women, had 
not been present in effigy-, would be con- 
sidered ill-omened from the beginning. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 145 

As soon as it becoraes known that some 
well-known "dalang" will hold a wayang- 
performance at such and such a house,*) 
the village folk from miles around come 
trooping toward the spot , trudging for hours, 
or even days , along the sun-scorched , dust- 
choked highroads , an enormous , mushroom- 
shaped hat on their head, and a handful of 
boiled rice, neatly folded in a green leaf, 
tucked into their girdle. At one of the numer- 
ous warongs or shops temporarily erected 
near the spot, where the wayang is to be 
performed, they buy some bananas and a 
cup of hot water, flavoured, perhaps, with 
green leaves of the coffee-plant , and sweetened 
with the aromatic areng-sugar. And, provided 
with these simple refreshments, they squat 
down upon the ground — the men on that 
side of the wayang- screen where they will 
see the puppets , the women on the other 
where the shadows are seen — and prepare 
to restfully enjoy the drama. 

*) The wayang-screen is erected in the open air, in 
front of the house. 

10 



146 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 

Already the last streaks of crimson and 
gold-shot opal have faded in the western 
skies, and the grey of dusk begins to deepen 
into nocturnal blackness. The evening breeze 
is astir in the tall tree-tops , waking a drowsy 
bird here and there among the branches; it 
chirps sleepily and is still again. Aloft, a 
single star is seen limpid and tremulous , 
like a dewdrop about to fall. And the garru- 
lous groups around the wayang-screen gra- 
dually cease- their talk. 

Now the „dalang," rising, disposes, on an 
improvised altar, the sacrificial gifts — fruit, 
and yellow rice , and flowers ; and lights the 
frankincense that keeps off evil spirits. Then, 
as the column of odoriferous smoke ascends , 
sways , and disperses through the thin , cool 
air , a volley of thunderous sound bursts from 
the „gamellan," and the dancers appear. 

Slowly they advance, in hand-hnked cou- 
ples, gliding rather than walking, with so 
gentle a motion that it never stirs the folds 
of their trailing robes , gathered at the waist 
by a silver clasp. Their bare shoulders , 




Native lady travelling in her litter. 




Slowly they advance gliding rather than walking. 



GLIMPSES .OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STKEETS 147 



anointed with boreh , *) gleam duskily above 
the purple slendang that drapes the bosom. 
Their soft round faces are set in a multi- 
coloured coruscation of jewellery , a play of 
green and blue and ruby-red sparks, that 
chase each other along the coiled strands 
of the necklace and the trembling ear-pen- 
dants , and shine with a steadier light in the 
richly chased tiara. A broad silver band, 
elaborately ornamented , clasps the upper arm : 
a narrower bracelet encircles the wrist: the 
fingers are a-ghtter with rings. 

Arrived in front of the wayang-screen 
they pause ; with the tips of their fingers , 
take hold of the long embroidered scarfs 
and stand expectant of the music that is to 
accompany their dancing. The „gamellan" 
intones a plaintive melody: a medley of 
tinkling , and iiuting , and bell-like sounds , 
scanded by the long-drawn notes of the 
„rebab," the Persian viol. Following the 
impulse of its rhythm, the dancers raise 
their hands making the scarf float along 

*) A fragrant yellow unguent. 



148 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 

the extended arm and waving about the glitter- 
ing silk they drape themselves in its folds as 
in a veil. Then, standing with feet turned 
shghtly inwards , and motionless , they begin 
to turn and twist the body, bending this 
way and that way, with the swaying move- 
ment of shm young trees that bow beneath 
the passing breeze, tossing their branches. 
And, with arms extended and hands spread 
out, they mime a ballad which some of their 
companions are singing, the prologue to the 
play. This may be a fragment of that ancient 
Hindoo poem, the Maha-Bha,rata ; or a myth 
of which Brahma, Vislonu, and Shiwa are 
the heroes , such as there are recorded in the 
Manik Maja; or, again, some episode of the 
Ramayana: the ,,wayang poerwa" being de- 
dicated to the representation of these three 
epics. A favourite subject, popular with the 
men on account of the many battles occurr- 
ing in the course of the drama, and with 
the women because Ardjuna, the gentle hero , 
has the leading part, is the rebellion and 
defeat of the Titans. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LITE IN THE STREETS 149 

In the first scene the gods appear on 
either hand of the „gunungan" ; Indra and 
Brahma hold anxious counsel as to what 
course of action shall be pursued, now that 
the audacious Titans have dared to march 
against the abode of the gods; and already 
their armies occupy the four quarters of 
Heaven; and the insolent Raksasa, their 
king and general , fears not the arms of the 
gods , their deadly swords , and intolerable 
lances. For, his huge body — all but one 
hidden spot — is invulnerable. An.d none may 
conquer liim , except a mortal hero , pm-e of 
all passion and sin. Sorrowfully, Brahma 
lifts his hands. "Such a one exists not". 
But Indra bethinks him of Ardjuna, the 
gentle prince, who, having utterly forsworn 
the glories of warfare, the pride of wordly 
rank and station, and the love of women, 
has retired to a cavern on Mount Indra Bala: 
and under the name of Sang Parta — assumed 
instead of the kingly one of Ardjuna — leads 
a life of prayer and penitence, mortifying 
his flesh, and still keeping his constant thought 



150 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STEEETS 

fixed on Shiwa, the giver of Victory. „ Maybe 
Sang Parta is the hero destined to overcome 
Ni Wcitakawaka. ' ' 

And tlie other gods , divided between hope 
and fear, answer: „Let us put his virtue 
to the test, that we may know surely." 
Among the heavenly nymphs , „the wida- 
dari," there are seven, the fairest of all, 
famous for many victories over saintly priests 
and anchorites , whom , by a smile , they 
caused to break the vows they had vowed, 
and forsake the god to whom they had 
dedicated themselves. These now are sent 
to tempt Ardjuna. If he withstand them , he 
wiU be, indeed, victor of the god of Love. 

The nymphs descend on Mount Indra Kila. 
„The wild kine and the deer of the mountain 
raise their head to gaze after them as they 
frolic over the dew-ht grass. The cinnamon 
trees put forth young shoots, less red than 
the maidens' lips. And the boulders, strewn 
around Sang Parta' s cavern, glisten to wel- 
come them, as, one by one, they pass the 
dark entrance." But the hermit, absorbed in 



aLIMPSES OP NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 151 

pious contemplations, never turns his aver- 
ted head, never looks upon the lovely ones, 
nor deigns to listen to their wooing songs. 
And those seven fair queens are fain to 
depart, hiding their faces, and smarting 
with the paiu of unrequited love. 

But the gods, beholding them come back 
thus shamefaced and sad , rejoice exceedingly. 

Now , to put Sang Parta's courage to the 
test, Shiwa, the terrible, assumes mortal 
shape ; and , descending on Indra KUa , defies 
the hermit. They fight, and Sang Parta 
is victor. Then Shiwa, revealing himself, 
praises the anchorite for his piety and his 
valour: and, for a reward, bestows upon 
him his own never-failing spear. After which 
he returns to the council of the gods , bidding 
them be of good cheer, for now it cannot be 
doubted any longer that Sang Parta is the 
hero destined to conquer the unconquerable 
Raksasa. 

He is now summoned to the presence of 
the gods , and receives their command to go 
forth and slay the Raksasa. A goddess arms 



162 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 

him: and a nymph whispers into his ear the 
secret on which the Titan's life depends; 
his vulnerable spot is the tip of his tongue. 
Sang Parta now resumes his real name: 
and , as Ardjuna , goes to seek Niwatakawata. 
After many wanderings and perilous adven- 
tures , in which Shiwa's miraculous spear 
stands him in good stead, he finally meets 
his destined antagonist, and defies him to 
single combat. For a long time they fight , 
each in turn seeming victor and vanquished , 
until, at last, Ardjuna, feigning to have 
received a deadly thrust, sinks down. Then, 
as the Raksasa , skipping about in insolent joy, 
shouts out a defiance of the gods , Ardjuna 
hurls his spear at the monster's wide-opened 
mouth and pierces his tongue , and the blas- 
phemer drops down dead. The other Titans, 
seeing their king fallen, fly, and the gods 
are saved. But Ardjuna is rewarded for his 
exploits, the grateful gods bestowing upon 
him seven surpassingly fair „widadari," a 
kingdom, and the power of working miracles. 
This drama, called Ardjuna's marriage 




Musicians. 




Street-dancers. 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 163 

feast, is a coraparatively short one, which 
may be performed in the course of one night. 
The majority of wayang-plays , however , 
require three or four nights, or even a whole 
week, for an adequate representation: and 
there are some which last for a fortnight. 
They consist of fourteen, fifteen, or even 
more acts. The number of dramatis personae 
is practically unlimited; new heroes and he- 
roines constantly appear upon the scene; 
and, to render confusion still worse confoun- 
ded, they again and again change their 
names. Time is annihilated, the babe, whose 
miraculous birth is represented in the be- 
ginning of an act, having arrived at man's 
estate before the end of it, and one generation 
succeeding another in the course of the play. 
Generally , too , no trace of any regular plan 
is discoverable. Incident follows incident, 
and intrigue disconnected intrigue ; and , 
at every tuna, fresh dramatic elements are 
introduced. So that, as the drama ceases — 
for it cannot m any proper sense be said to 
finish — characters whose very names have 



154 GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 

not been mentioned before, are making love, 
waging war, and holding desultory counsel 
about events absolutely irrelevant, and be- 
tween which and those represented in the 
beginning of the drama, it is all but impos- 
sible to find the slightest connection. 

To a Javanese, these endless plays hardly 
seem long enough. He never wearies of the 
innmnerable adventures of these innumerable 
heroes, Titans, queens, and gods, though 
he has seen them represented ever since he 
was a child, and probably knows them by 
heart, almost as well as the „dalang" him- 
self. He has no prejudices in favour of any 
regular intrigue , with beginning , catastrophe, 
and end. And , as for improbabilities , many 
strange things happen , day by day. And, as 
for time, was not the Prophet carried up to 
Heaven to sojourn among the blessed for a 
thousand years , whence returning to Mecca , 
and entering his chamber, he found the pit- 
cher, which he had upset in his heavenward 
flight , not yet emptied of its contents ? Such 
considerations cannot spoil his enjoyment of 



GLIMPSES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE STREETS 165 

the wayang. Night after night , the Javanese 
sit, listening to the grandiloquent speeches 
of the heroes and their courting of queens 
and nyraphs ; discussing their opinions and 
principles, moral and otherwise: and, amid 
bursts of laughter, applauding any witticism , 
with which the „dalang" may enliven his 
somewhat monotonous text. And as, at last, 
they regretfully rise in the reddening dawn 
that causes the wayang lights to pale , visions 
of that heroic and beautiful world accom- 
pany them on their homeward way. The 
maidens would hardly be amazed to behold 
Ardjuna slumbering under the blossoming 
citron bush. And the young men think of 
Palosara, who, by his unassisted arm, won 
a royal bride and the kingdom of Ngastina. 



On the Beach 

The million-footed crowd of travelling hu- 
manity has trodden Tandjang Priok out of 
all beauty and pleasantness. It is nothing 
now but a heap of dust rendered compact 
by a coating of basalt and bricks , and bear- 
ing on its flat surface some half-dozen 
square squat sheds , the whitewashed walls of 
which glare intolerably in the sunlight that 
beats upon that barren place all day long. 
But, a little further down the shore, east- 
wards from the harbour, the natural beauty 
of the country re-asserts itself. There are 
wide, shallow bays, where the water sleeps 
in the shadow of overhanging trees: sandy 
points, one projecting beyond the other across 
shimmering intervals of sea: and, alternating 



ON THE BEACH 157 



with open spaces where a few bamboo huts 
are clustered together amidst a plantation 
of young banana trees, great tracts of wood- 
land that come do-wn to the very margin of the 
water. In one place where the narrow beach 
broadens out a little, some half-dozen shan- 
ties, one of which might, by courtesy, be 
styled a bathing-lodge, have foxmd standing- 
room between the wood and the water. 
Some homesick exile from France has christen- 
ed the handful of bamboo posts and atap 
leaves: Petite TrouviUe. In the dry season, 
when Batavia is parched with heat and 
choked with dust, people come hither for a 
plunge into the clear cool waves, and for 
some hours of blissful idleness in the shadow 
of the broad-branched nyamploeng trees, 
which mirror their dark leafage and clusters 
of white wax-like blossoms in the tide. 

The day some friends took me to see the 
place, was one of the last in April, when 
the rains were yet not quite over. We had 
left Batavia at half-past five, when the Ko- 
ningsplein was still white with rolhng mists 



158 ON THE BEACH 



and the stars had but just begun to fade in. 
the greyish sky. The train had borne us 
along some distance on our way to Tand- 
jong Priok, ere the sun rose. Rather, ere it 
appeared. There had been no heralding 
change of colour in the eastern sky; only 
the uncertain light that lay over the land- 
scape had gradually strengthened; and, all 
at once, at some height above the horizon a 
triangular splendour burst forth, a great 
heart of flame which was the sun. The pools 
and tracts of marshy ground flooded by the 
recent rains were ridged with long straight 
parallel lines of red. The dark tufts of palm 
trees here and there shone like burnished 
bronze. And where they grew denser , in 
groups and little groves , the blue mist hanging 
between the stems was pierced by lances of 
reddish light. 

At Tandjong Priok station, we alighted 
amidst a crowd of natives, dock-labourers 
and coal-heavers , on their way to the ships. 
They took the road in true native style, 
one marching behind the other, laughing 



ON THE BEACH 159 



and talking as they went. And we followed 
them , in. our jolting sadoos , along a sunny- 
avenue , pla.nted with slim young trees , as 
far as to the bend of the road : then we left 
it and entered the wood on the right, wich 
we had for some time been skirting. 

A rough track led through it. Our sadoos 
jolted worse than ever in the ruts left by 
the broad- wheeled carts of the peasantry. We 
alighted and made our way as best we 
coiild through the grass-grown clearings of 
the jungle. The sun was but just beginning 
to warm the air. White shreds of mist still 
hung among the tree-stems , and swathed 
the brushwood. The grass underfoot was 
white with dew, ghstening with myriads of 
brilliant little points where the yellow s\in- 
light touched it. The broadly curved banana 
leaves , and the feathery tufts of the pahn 
trees overhead began to grow transparent, 
standing out in light green against the 
shining whiteness of the sky. There was an 
inexpressible vitality and exhilaration in all 
things, in the fine pure air, cool as well 



160 ON THE BEACH 



water, in the sparkle of the dew-Ut grass, 
in the bushes with large round drops trem- 
bling on every leaf, in the pungent scent of 
the lantana that on every side displayed its 
clusters of pink , mauve and orange red blos- 
soms. It was good to feel wet through on 
the tramp through the drenched tangle, to 
feel the blood tingling in the finger tips, 
the lungs full of quickening air, and the 
sunshine right in your eyes. It was good to 
be ahve. 

After a while , we came to a little cam- 
pong , some five or six bamboo huts, grouped 
together in an open space of the wood. Some 
naked children were playing around a fire 
of sticks and dry leaves. Under a shed, a 
woman stood pounding rice in a hoHowed-out 
wooden block, whilst another carrying a 
child in her slendang, talked to her. There 
were no men about, save one old fellow, 
white-haired and decrepit, who sat in his 
doorway, mending nets. In that sunny forest 
clearing, that was the one thing suggestive 
of the neighbouring sea. 



ON THE BEACH 161 



Past the village there are several tanks 
of brackish water, where fish is bred for 
Chinese consumption. Tangles of green weed 
floated on the surface, which, in places, 
seemed to be filmed over with oily colours. 
A man walked along the shore, dredging. 
Beyond, the wood recommenced. But it was 
less dense here ; great patches of sunlight lay 
on the ground , and the sky showed every- 
where through the stems. As we issued out 
of the dappled shade, we belield the sea. 

Calm and clear, it lay under the calm 
-clear sky, a silvery splendour suffused in 
places with the faintest blue. Not a ripple 
disturbed the lustrous smoothness. Only, out 
in the open, the water heaved with a 
scarcely perceptible swell, its rise and sub- 
sidence revealed by a rhythmic pulsation of 
colour — streaks of pale turquoise breaking 
out upon the pearly monochrome, kindling 
into azure and gradually fainting and fading 
again. To the westward the mole of Tand- 
jong Priok and the two bar-iron light-towers , 

standing seemingly close together , had 

11 



162 ON THE BEACH. 



dwindled to a narrow dark line with, at its 
extreme point, two little black filigree figures 
delicately defined against the shimmering 
white of sea and sky. Near the shore , a 
fishing-prahu , its slight hull almost disap- 
pearing under the immense white wing-like 
sail , lay still above its motionless reflection. 
In the eastern distance , a group of islands , 
ethereal as cloudlets , hung where the sheen 
of the sea and the shimmer of the sky flowed 
together into one tremulous splendour, dazz- 
ling and colourless. The beach with a nipah- 
thatched hut on the right and a group of 
spreading njamploeng trees on the left, 
framed the radiant vista with sober browns 
and greens. 

The morning was still, without a breath 
of air; and, all around, the foliage hung 
motionless. Yet, as we walked over the fine 
grey sand, which already felt hot under foot , 
there came drifting down to us now and 
again , -whiffs of a sweet subtle fragrance , as 
of March violets ; and transparent blossoms , 
fluttering down, whitened the shell-strewn 



ON THE BEACH. 163 



beach. The ^ njamploengs were m flower. 
Looking at that dark-leaved grove on the 
margin of the water , I thought I had seldom 
seen nobler trees. Not very tall; but romid and 
broad, great hemispheres of foliage square- 
ly supported on column-like trruiks. In their 
general air and bearing, in the character of 
the oblong leaves and their elegant poise upon 
the branch , they somewhat resemble the wal- 
nuts of northern countries. The colour is even 
richer , a vigorous iDluish green , swarthy at 
a distance ; and , when seen near at hand , as 
full of tender beryl-tints as a field of young 
oats , with watery gleams and glories playing 
through the depths of the foliage. For a 
crowning grace , the njamploeng has its blos- 
soms, fragrant, white, and of a wax-like 
transparency — cups of milky light. Standing 
under an ancient tree, that overhung the 
water with trailing branches and a tangle of 
wave- washed roots , I could seh the luminous 
clusters shining in that dome of dusky leafage , 
like stars in an evening sky. And the water 
in the shadow gleamed with pale reflections. 



164 ON THE BEACH 



The sea that morning passed through a 
succession of chi'omatic changes. The silvery 
sraootlxness of an hour ago had been broken 
by a ripple , that came and went in dashes 
of ruffled ultra-marine. Then , here and there , 
purplish patches appeared, which presently 
began to spread until they touched , and flowed 
together, and the sea, all along the shore, 
seemed turned to muddy wine whilst , out in 
the open, it sparkled in a rich blue-green, 
rippling and flickering. At noon , the purplish 
brown had disappeared , and the emerald-like 
tints had faded and changed to an uncertain 
olive-green. The sky as yet retained its morn- 
ing aspect, cloudless and shunmering Avith 
a white brilliancy as if all the stars of the Milliy 
Way had been dissolved in it. Under that 
enduring paleness, the fitful colouring and 
flushing of the sea seemed all the stranger. 

As the day advanced , the heat had steadily 
increased , and , at last , it was intolerable. 
About ten, when we swara out into the sea, 
the water, even where it grew deeper, felt 
tepid: a little after noon, it was warm. The 



ON THE BEACH 165 



windless air quivered. And the sand was so 
hot as to scorch our bare feet when we at- 
tempted to step out of the circular shadow 
of the njamploengs, where a little coolness 
as yet remained. 

A dead quiet lay on sea and land. There 
was neither wind nor wave ; not the thinnest 
shadow of a sailing cloud, to temper for an 
instant the ruabearable glare. The foliage 
overhead was the one spot of colour in a 
white-hot universe. There must be cicadas 
among the leaves : I had heard them trilling , 
earlier in the day : but the heat had reduced 
them to silence. Even the black ants , cravv'ling 
among the roots , and in the fissures of the 
rough rind of the trees seemed to move but 
listlessly. From where I sat, I could see, 
framed by the circular sweep of the hanging 
foliage, a stretch of beach, with some huts 
amidst a banana plantation, and, further 
down , a native boat lying keel upwards upon 
the sand. A lean dog crouched in the shadow, 
panting with tongue hanging out. No other 
living creature was to be seen. 



166 ON THE BEACH 



The afternoon was far gone before there 
came a change, imperceptible at first, a 
gradual sobering of colour, and a growing 
definiteness in the contours of trees and 
bushes. Then, the air began to cool down. 
The horizon grew distinct; a curve of rich 
green against sunlit blue; a short ripple 
roughened the water; and, suddenly, the 
breeze sprang up, driving before it a wave 
that hurried and rose, and broke foaming 
upon the beach. The tide was coming in. 

It was as if the inspiriting hour, that 
changed the face of land and sea, made 
itself felt also in the little brown huts under 
the trees, stirring up the folk into briskness 
and activity. Merry voices and the cries of 
children mingled with the sound of hammer 
strokes, reverberating along the wooded 
beach. Among the trees , I could discern 
the figure of a man bending over his boat, 
tool in hand; and a woman coming out of 
her door with a bundle of clothes under one 
arm. Where the lengthening shadow of the 
njamploeng trees fell on the sunny water, 



ON TPIE BEACH 1G7 



two young girls were bathing: somewhat 
further down, a swarm of naked urchins 
waded through the shallows, in search of 
mother-of-pearl. The yellow sunlight shone 
on their little brown bodies , and made the 
ripples sparkle around them as they splashed 
hither and thither, feeling about with their 
feet for the flat sharp shards which the tide 
leaves buried in the sands. Standing still 
for an instant, when they had found one, 
they balanced on one foot, whilst, with the 
clenched toes of the other they picked up 
the shiny piece, with a supple, monkey-like 
movement. Presently, along came an old 
man, in a straw topee and a faded reddish 
sarong, who entered the sea, and waded 
towards the spot, where, that morning, — 
when it was as yet dry land — he had erected 
his "tero", the pliable bamboo palisade , which, 
arranged in the shape of a V, with the opening 
towards the shore, serves as a trap for fish. 
The hurdle was all but overflowed now , only 
the points of the bamboo stakes emerging 
above the rising tide, like the rigging of 



168 ON THE BEACH 

some wrecked and sunken ship. The old 
man gave it a shake, to assure himself of 
having driven it deep enough into the sand , 
to withstand the impact of the waves : and , 
satisfied upon this point , limped away again,, 
with the air of a man who had finished his 
day's work. He might lie down on his baleh- 
baleh now, and peacetully smoke his cigar- 
ette. Whilst he was taking his ease, the 
sea would provide for his daily fish. In a 
few minutes , the tide would have submerged 
his "tero," and the heedless fish would swim 
across it: and, as the water ebbed away 
again, they would be driven against the 
convergmg sides of the lattice- work , and, 
presently, be left gasping upon the bars. 
Then , the women of the village would come 
with their baskets , and gather the living 
harvest, as they might a wmdfall of ripe 
fruit; and his grandson, out at sea now, 
with the other young men, would hang two 
full baskets to his bending yoke, and with 
the fire-car go to Batavia , there to sell 
the fish for much money, a handful of 



ON THE BEACH 169 



copper doits. Even, if he had caught "kakab" 
which the orang blandah Hke, and "gabus," 
of which the rich Chinese are fond, the boy 
might bring him home some silver coins. And 
his grand-daughter would salt and dry in 
the sun the smaller fry , and make "ikan kring" 
for him and all the household. 

Happy the man who has dutiful children! 
In his old age, when he is able no longer 
to earn his sustenance, he will not want; he 
need not beg, nor borrow from the kampong 
folk; and he will not be tempted to invoke 
Kjai Belorong, the wicked goddess of wealth, 
who, in exchange for riches, demands men's 
souls. Do not all in this kampong know of 
Pah-Sidin, and what became of him after 
he had prayed to the evil sprite? Here is 
the tale, as the old fisherman gave it me. 

He was a poor man, Pah-Sidin, unlucky in 
whatever he undertook, and so utterly igno- 
rant as not to know one single "ilmu" charm 
with which to conjure good fortune. So that , 
though his wife worked from morning till 
night , weaving and batikking sarongs , and 



170 ON THE BEACH 



tending the garden and the field , and selling 
fruit and flowers, things went from bad to 
worse with him. And at last, there was not 
a grain of rice left in the house, and the 
green crop in the field was the property of an 
usurer. His wife , weeping , said : "0 Pah-Sidin ! 
how now shall we feed and clothe our little 
ones , Sidin , and all the others P" But he , 
vexed with her importunities , and weary of 
fasting and going about in faded clothes, 
without a penny to buy sirih or pay his 
place at a cock-fight, said: "Be silent! fori 
know where to find great wealth." Then he 
went away, and walked along the shore for 
many days , until he came to a place where 
there were great rocks , and caves in which 
the water made a sound as of thunder. Here 
lives the dread goddess , Njai Loro Kidul , 
the Virgin Queen of the Southern Seas , 
whom the gatherers of edible birds' nests 
invoke , honouring her with sacrifices before 
they set out on their perilous quest. And 
here, too, lives her servant, wicked Kjai 
Belorong, the money-goddess. 



ON THE BEACH 171 



Pah-Sidin, standing in the entrance of a 
black and thunderous cave, strewed kanan- 
gan flowers , and melatih , and yellow cham- 
paka , and bui-nt costly frankincense , and , 
as the cloud of fragrant smoke ascended, 
he fell on his face, and cried: "Kjai Belo- 
rong! I invoke thee! I am poor and utterly 
wretched! Do thou give me money, and I 
wiU give thee my soul, Kjai Belorong!" 
Then, a voice, which caused the blood to 
run cold in his veins, answered: "I hear 
thee, Pah-Sidin." He arose, trembling , and , 
as he turned his head , saw that the cave 
was a house, large and splendid, and full 
of golden treasure. But, as he looked closer , 
behold ! it was built of human bodies ; floor , 
walls , and roof all made of living men , who 
wept and groaned , crying : "Alas , alas ! who 
can endure these unendurable pains!" And 
the horrible voice, speaking for the second 
time, asked: "Pah-Sidin, hast thou courage?" 

Pah-Sidin , at first , was like to have faint- 
ed with horror. But soon, reflecting how he 
was young and strong, and the hour of his 



172 ON THE BEACH 



death far off as yet , and hoping , also , that , 
in the end , he might be able to deceive Kjai 
Belorong and save his soul, whilst in the 
meanwhile, he would enjoy great honour and 
riches , he answered ; "Kjai Belorong , I have 
courage!" And the voice spoke for the third 
time : "It is well ! Gro back to thy own house 
now: for, soon, I will come to thee." 

So, Pah-Sidin returned to his house, and 
waited for Kjai Belorong, saying nothing of 
the matter to his wife. And , in the night , she 
came , and sat upon the baleh-baleh , and said: 
"Embrace me, Pah-Sidin, for now I am thy 
love." Pah-Sidin would willingly have kissed 
her, for she seemed as fair as the bride of 
the love-god. But , looking down , he saw 
that, instead of legs and feet, she had a 
long scaly tail; then he was afraid, and 
would have fled. But Kjai Belorong, seizing 
him in her arms , said : "If thou but triest to 
escape, I will kill thee," and she pressed 
him to her bosom so violently that the 
breath forsook his body, and he lay as one 
dead. Then she loosed her grasp , and disap- 



ON THE BEACH 173 



peared, rattling her tail. But when Pah-Sidin 
returned to consciousness, he saw, in the 
faint light of the dawn , the baleh-baleh all 
strewn with yellow scales, and each scale 
was a piece of the finest gold. 

Pah-Sidin now was as the richest Rajah: 
he had a splendid house, with granaries 
and stables, fine horses, great plantations 
of palms and j ambus and all other kinds of 
fruit, and rich sawahs that stretched as far 
as a man on horseback could see. He repu- 
diated his wife, who was no longer young, 
and was worn out with care and labour; 
and married the daughter of a wealthy 
Rajah , and three other maidens , as fair as 
bidadaris. And, whenever he wished for more 
money, Kjai Belorong came to him in the 
night, and enabraced him, and gave him 
more than he had asked for. Thus the years 
went by in great glory and happiness, until 
the hair of his head began to grow white, 
and his eyes lost their brilliancy, and his 
black and shining teeth fell out. Then, one 
night, Kjai Belorong came to his couch. 



174 ON THE BEACH 



iHisummoned , looked at him , and said : 
"Pah-Sidin! the hour is come. Follow m.e, 
and I will make thee the threshold of my 
palace." Bat Pah-Sidin made answer, and said: 
"Alas ! Kjai Belorong ! look at me , how lean 
I am! my ribs almost pierce through the 
skin of my side. Assuredly, thou wilt hurt' 
thy tail in passing over me, if thou makest 
me the threshold of thy house. Rather take 
with thee my plough-boy , who is young , and 
plump, and smooth!" 

Then Kjai Belorong took the plough-boy. 
And Pah-Sidin married a new wife, and 
lived merrier than before. Thus ten years 
went by in great glory and happiness. But, 
on the last night of the tenth year, Kjai 
Belorong again came to his couch, unsum- 
moned, and looked at him, and said: "Pah- 
Sidin! the hour is come. Follow me, and I 
wiU make thee the pillar of my palace." 
But Pah-Sidin made answer and said: 
"Alas ! Kjai Belorong ! look at me , how 
weak I am ! my shoulders are so bent I can 
scarcely keep the badju jacket from gliding 



ON THE b^:ach 175 



down. Assuredly , thy roof will fall in and 
crush thee, if thou makest me the pillar of 
thy house. Rather take with thee my young- 
est brother, who is strong, and tail, and 
broad of shoulders !" 

Then Kja'i Belorong took the brother. But 
Pah-Sidin married jet another new wife, 
and lived even merrier than hitherto. Thus 
ten more years went by in great glory and 
happiness. But, on the last night of the tenth 
year, Kjai Belorong for the third time came 
to his couch, unsummoned, looked at him, 
and spoke : "Pah Sidin ! the hour is come. 
Follow me , and I will make thee the hearth- 
stone of my palace!" And Pah-Sidin made 
answer, and said: "Alas! Kja'i Belorong! 
look at me, how cold I am and covered all 
over with a clammy sweat! Assuredly thy 
fire will smoulder and go out if thou makest 
me the hearth-stone of thy house. Rather 
take with thee my eldest son, Sidin, who is 
healthy, and warm, and dry!" But the 
wicked Kjai Belorong , in a voice which made 
Pali-Sidin's heart stand still, screamed: "I 



176 ON THE BEACH 



will take none but thee, old man! and, since 
thou art so cold and wet , I will bid my 
imperishable fire warm and dry thee!" And 
with these words the demon seized Pah-Sidin 
by the throat, and carried him off to her 
horrible abode, there to be the stone upon 
which her hearth-fire burns everlastingly." 

At the conclusion of this long tale , the 
old fisherman drew a sigh of relief "Such is 
the fate of those who let themselves be con- 
quered by greed and the wiles of wicked 
Kja'i Belorong. But I, njonja, need have no 
fear. For my childern are dutiful, and — pro- 
vide for aU my wants. Nor need any one 
else in this dessa fear. For we are all pious 
men , who pra}^ to the Prophet and the Toe- 
wan Allah. Thus we are safe." 

Indeed, to judge from the appearance of 
these good-natured , frugal and eareless people, 
I should have fancied that the money-goddess 
could not make many victims among them. 

But their safety is threatened by yet another 
enemy , — a much more energetic one than 
Kjai Belorong to all appearance: to wit "My 



ON THE BEACH 177 



Lord the Crocodile." The coast swarms 
with these brutes ; and according to official 
reports, quite a number of people are annual- 
ly devoured by them. 

They infest especially the marshy country 
around the mouth of the Kali Batawi , where 
they may sometimes be seen, lying half in 
the water and half upon a mud-bank , their 
wicked httle eyes blinking in the sunlight, 
their formidable jaws agape and showing 
the bright yeUow of the guUet. There, they 
wait for the carcases of drowned animals and 
the offal of all kinds floating down the 
river. Imprudent bathers are often attacked 
by them , and they even swim up the water- 
courses , and venture for considerable distances 
inland. 

The Government, some years ago, put a 
premium on the capture of crocodiles, a 
relatively high sum being offered for a car- 
case. But the measure had to be withdrawn 
after a while, and this, though, to all 
appearance, it worked excellently well. Num- 
bers of crocodiles were caught and killed; 

12 



178 ON THE BEACH 



not a day went by but natives presented them- 
selves at the police stations , exhibiting a limp 
carcase slung on to a bamboo frame, which 
a score of coolies „pikoled" *) along. Haras- 
sed officials began to believe in a universe 
peopled exclusively by Malays and dead or 
dying crocodiles ; and philanthropists rejoiced 
over an imminent extermination of caymans , 
and consequent safety for bathers. But there 
were those who understood the nature of both 
natives and crocodiles, and who considered 
their ways; and they smiled a smile of wis- 
dom and pity ineffable , as they looked upon 
the dead saurians, and saw that they were 
young. The philanthropists contended that a 
little crocodile was a crocodile nevertheless, 
and would, in its own bad time, be a big 
crocodile , and one which feasted on the flesh 
of men and women and innocent children; 
but those wise men only smiled the more. 
And, presently one of them took a philan- 
thropist by the hand, and led him by quiet 



*) To pikol = to carry a load slung on a pole. 



ON THE BEACH 179 



waters , and showed him how men and women 
sought for the eggs of the crocodile, and 
gathered them in their bosom, and watched 
the young come out, and reared them even 
with a father's care and loving-kindness, to 
the end that they might wax fat and kick, 
and be bound with iron chains , and delivered 
over to the schout. *) 

The crocodiles now are left to multiply 
and replenish the shores of Java; and nobody 
molests them, except now and then some 
adventurous sportsman, upon whom tigers 
have palled, and who cares but httle for 
"bantengs," f) and holds the rhinoceros of no 
account. And, generally , too , though he lie in 
wait for a crocodile, he catches only a fever 
— of a particularly mahgnant kind , it is true. 

The Malays, as a rule, do not readily kill 
crocodiles. They believe that the spirits of 
the dead are re-incarnated in these animals; 
so that, what seems a repulsive and dan- 
gerous beast , may , in reality , be an honom-- 



*) A police official. 
f) The wild buffalo. 



180 ON THE BEACH 



ed father, or a long lamented bride. And 
they piously prefer the risk of being devour- 
ed to the certainty of becomiag murderers. 
Far from injuring, they honour the "cay- 
man" by sacrifices of rice , meat , and fruit , 
which they send down the river in little 
baskets of palm-leaves with a hght twiakliag 
a-top; a gift offered whenever a child is 
born, to propitiate the metamorphosed an- 
cestors in river and sea, and implore then- 
protection for this , their newly born descen- 
dant. Human feelings and susceptibilities 
are attributed to them which the Malay 
carefully abstains from wounding. He never 
speaks but of "My Lord the. Crocodile." And 
a wayang-play , such as , for instance , Kro- 
kosono, the hero of which defeats and kills 
the King of the Crocodiles , no dalang would 
dream of representing in a place where 
caymans could hear or see it. There is one 
act, however, by which a crocodile forfeits 
all claim to respect: and that is killing a 
human being. From his supposed human na- 
ture, it evidently follows that this is an act 



ON THE BEACH 181 



of malice prepense , a crime knowingly com- 
mitted: and, as such, should be punished 
as it would be were the perpetrator a man 
or a woman — that is , with death. It would 
seem too as if the guilty creature were con- 
scious of his crime: and, sometimes, out of 
sheer remorse, gave himself up to justice. 
At least, a story to this effect is told of a 
certain crocodile , which had devoured a little 
girl , and this , though the child's parents 
had duly offered rice and meat and fruit, 
at the stated times; of which gifts this cro- 
codile had undoubtedly had his share. The 
parents , weeping , sought a hermit who lived 
not far from the "dessa" or village, a wise 
man who understood the language of animals ; 
and implored him to restore at least the 
remains of their daughter's httle body to 
them , and to visit with condign punishment 
her brutal murderer. The hermit, moved 
with pity and indignation, forthwith left his 
cave, and repaired to the sea-shore. There, 
standing with his feet in the waves , he pro- 
nounced the potent spell which all crocodiles 



182 ON THE BEACH 



must obey. They came, hurrying, from far 
and near: the shore bristled with their scaly 
bgicks ranged in serried rank and file. "When 
all were present, the hermit addressed them 
in their own tongue, declaring that one of 
them had committed the unpardonable crime 
of murder, murder upon an innocent child, 
whose parents had offered sacrifices for her 
at her birth: rice and fruit and meat, of 
which they all had partaken, in token of 
amity and good will. So abominable a breach 
of good faith would not be suffered to 
remain unpunished. Wherefore, let him who 
had perpetrated it, stand forth! But all the 
others, let them withdraw into the sea! The 
crocodiles heard. The solid land seemed to 
heave and break up , as the congregated 
thousands dispersed. But one crocodile re- 
maiaed behind on the beach. It crawled nearer 
and lay down at the feet of the hermit. And 
the father of the little girl, approaching, 
drew his "kris" , and thrust it iato the crea- 
ture's eyes , killing it. The holy man then 
took out of the monster's jaws the necklace 



ON THE BEACH 183 



of blue beads , which the little girl had worn : 
and handed it to the father, promising him 
that , within the year , his wife would bear 
him another daughter, even fairer than the 
lost one. But the carcase of the crocodile was 
devoured by the dogs. 

Something ia the landscape near Petite 
Trouville brought back to my memory this 
tale, heard from a village priest some time 
ago. It was a fit scene for such events. That 
brown hut among the bananas might have 
been the abode of the hapless httle maid. 
The dense wood, behind, might weU shelter 
an anchorite , some old man , wise and humble , 
content to live on wild fruit and learn from 
the birds among the branches and the fishes 
in the sea; assuredly, he would stand upon 
the little spit of land that has the njamp- 
loeng on it, and the crocodiles, obedient 
to his command, would raise their formid- 
able heads from the water, and with their 

serried ranks cover the shelving beach 

Very peaceful it lay now, in the light 
of the setting sun. The sea shone golden. 



184 ON THE BEACH 



And already , among the blossom-laden bran- 
ches of the njamploeng, there began to 
rustle the sea breeze, precursor of deep- 
breathed Night. 



Of Buitenzorg 

The Javanese Sans-Souci *) lies cradled 
in a fold of the undulating country at the 
base of the Salak, whose blue top, twin to- 
that of the Gedeh, is seen, in fine weather, 
from the Koningsplein, rising aerially, fresh, 
and pure, above the dusty glare of Bata- 
via. The village is pretty, — all brown atap 
houses and gardens full of roses, with the 
wooded hill-side for a background. One may 
wander for hours in the splendid Botan- 
ical Garden, reputed to be the finest in the 
world, and a goal of pilgrimage for scientists 
from every part of the globe. Whoever visits 

*) Buitenzorg, literally translated, means "away from 
sorrow or care." 



186 OF BUITENZOBG 



the place in September may combine these 
tranquil pleasures with the gaiety of the an- 
nual races , and the great ball at the Buiten- 
zorg Club , where "all Java" dances. I went 
in the last week of the month , glad to escape 
from the town , which , at this time of the 
year, is unbearable, scorched with the heat 
of the east monsoon and stifled under a layer 
of dust , which makes the grass of the gardens 
crumble away, and turns the "assam" trees 
along the river and in the squares into grey 
spectres. The country through which the first 
part of my road lay , seemed , however , scarce- 
ly less desolate. Nothing but flat monoton- 
ous fields , some altogether bare and grey , 
others still covered with yellowish stubble, 
through which the cracks and fissures olthe 
parched soil showed. Here and there , a patch 
of green, where some huddled bro.wn roofs 
and a group of thin palm-trees denoted a 
native hamlet , forlorn in the wide arid plain. 
Then, agaiu, bare brown fields, where no 
Uving creatm-e was to be seen, except, now 
and then, a herd of dun buffaloes wal- 



OF BUITENZORG 187 



lowing in the ooze of some dried-up pool. 
By and bye , however , the character of the 
landscape began to change. The rich blue- 
green of the young rice-crops , seen first in 
isolated squares and patches , spread all over 
the gradually-ascending fields. Along the 
course of a rapid rivulet, a bamboo grove 
sprang up , hthe stems bending a little under 
their cascades of waving duU-green foliage. 
Then the rice-clad undulations of the ground 
began to rise into little hiUs, green to the 
very top, and down the sides of which the 
water , that fed the terraced fields , trickled in 
many a twisting silvery thread ; and , suddenly 
on the left, rose the great triangular mass 
of the Salak, dull-blue in the sober evening 
light. It was almost dark when the train stop- 
ped at the Buitenzorg station. It stands at 
some distance from the village: and, as I 
drove thither, sights and sounds reached me 
that denoted the hiUy country. The wheels ot 
the cab creaked over whitish pebbles clean as 
gravel from the rocky river-bed. The gardens 
on each side the road were full of flowers , 



188 OF BUITENZOBG 



that gleamed palely through the semi-dark- 
ness. The voices of passers-by , the laughter 
of children at play, the tones of a flute 
somewhere in the distance, sounded clear 
and far through the thinner air. As I enter- 
ed the village , I noticed that the houses 
were built of bamboo instead of the brick, 
which is the usual material in the clayey 
lowlands. 

It is said that these bamboo houses , covered 
with atap , withstand the shock of earthquakes, 
frequent in this country, much better than 
brick buildings with tiled roofs. However 
that may be, their rual aspect harmonizes 
with the landscape: and they are delightful 
to inhabit , cool under the noonday-heat , and 
proof against the torrential rains , which , at 
Buitenzorg, fall every day, between two and 
four in the afternoon. I Hved for some time 
in a little pavihon, — -wooden floor, pagar walls, 
and a roof of atap : a pleasanter abode I never 
knew. It was almost like living in a hermit's 
cell out in the woods. I was never sure 
whether the soft creaking noises heard all 



OF BUITENZOEG 189 



night through came from the bamboo-grove 
in the garden, or from the bamboo in my 
wall. The crickets seemed to sing in my 
very ears : and a faint , sweet smell pervaded 
the httle room, such as breathes from the 
leafage, dead and living, of a forest. Like 
a cenobite's cell, too, my pavihon was not 
meant for a storehouse of worldly treasiu-es. 
Even if moths and rust did not corrupt, 
thieves would have quite exceptional facili- 
ties for breaking through and stealing them. 
"Breaking through" is too energetic and 
vigorous a term ; with an ordinary penknife, 
one might cut away enough of the walls to 
admit a battahon of burglars. Reading, one 
day , a French translation of Don Quixote , T 
rested the ponderous folio, which tired my 
arms, against the wall. It instantly gave 
way, sinking in, as if it had been a canvas 
awning. I do not doubt that, with my 
embroidery scissors, I might have cut out 
an elegant open-work pattern in it. 

The morning after my arrival, I was up be- 
times and on my way to the Botanical Grarden. 



190 OF BUITENZORG 



It was early , as yet , a little after sunrise , and 
the air felt as cool and as pure as well-water. 
A frost-like dew had whitened the grass; 
shreds of mist hung between the trees , trail- 
ed along the hill-side, and floated like low 
white clouds in the depths of the ravine, 
where the river foamed past over the boul- 
ders of its rocky bed. And , in the branches, 
the birds were twittering and singing their 
httle hearts out. I met some natives on the 
way to their morning bath, hugging them- 
selves in the folds of the "baju" the women 
among them having the "slendang" drawn 
over their heads. They walked at a brisk 
pace, very different from the listless move- 
ments of pedestrians in the sultry streets of 
Batavia. The type was of another kind, a 
slightly oval face , with a thin nose somewhat 
aquiline in design, and very brilliant eyes; 
the complexion of a clear yellowish brown, 
with a touch of red in the lips. They had 
an elastic gait, and the free carriage of the 
head peculiar to hill-folk. Some of the young 
girls were absolutely pretty. 



OF BUITENZOBG 



191 



I asked my way of an old woman who 
sat by the roadside, complacently smoking 
a cigarette , and soon found myself within 
the gates of the Botanical Garden, and in 
the celebrated waringin avenue, one of the 
glories of the place. The first impression, 
I confess , is somewhat disappointing. The 
avenue is not very long , so that it lacks the 
depths of green darkness , the prospect along 
apparently converging parallels of pillar-like 
trunks, and the bluish shimmer of light afar 
off, which are the characteristic charms 
of woodland glades. It seems more like 
a square, planted with trees on two sides 
of the quadrangle only, a comparatively 
narrow space of shadow, abutting on the 
broad fields of sunlight beyond. After a 
while, however, one notices the smallness 
of the figures moving past the trees, men, 
horses , and bullock-carts. By comparison , one 
begins to realize the gigantic proportions of 
it all , — the length and breadth and height of 
the leafy vault overhead, and the hugeness 
of those stupendous growths that support it , 



192 OP BUITENZORG 



each of them a grove in itself, congregated 
hundreds of trees , group by group of stately- 
stems crowding round the colossal parent 
bole. Then , by and bye , the sense of grandeur 
is succeeded by a curious impression of life- 
lessness. In their vast size , their stark immo- 
bility, and their rigid attitudes, these grey 
masses resemble granite peaks and cliffs 
rather than trees. The aged trunks, broad- 
based, are riven and fissured like weather- 
beaten rocks , showing gnarled protuberances 
and black clefts from which ferns and mosses 
droop. Some , rotten to the core — nothing left 
of the trunk but a fragment of grey gnarled 
rind , with the fungus-overgrown mould lying 
heaped up against the base — resemble boul- 
ders , covered with earth and detritus. One 
or two, quite decayed, hang in mid-air, 
dependent from a dome of interlacing branch- 
es, stems, and air-roots, like some gigantic 
stalactite from the roof of a piLLared cavern. 
And, aloft, the dense masses of foliage, grey 
against the sunlit brilliancy of the sky , seem 
like the broken and crumbling vault of this 



OF BUITENZOKG 193 



immense grotto. This strange resemblance of 
liviag vegetable matter to inert stone ceases 
only when, issuing from among the stems, 
one looks at the waringins from a distance, 
and sees the grey multitude of boles , 
trunks , and stems disappearing under 
spreading masses of foliage, resplendent in 
the sun. 

The garden is worthy of this magnificent 
entrance. Enthusiastic "savants" have sung 
its praises in aU the languages of civilizat- 
ion, and, by common consent, have declar- 
ed it to be the finest botanical garden in 
the world, assigning the second place to 
famous Kew , and mentioning the gardens of 
Berlin , Paris , and Vienna as third , fourth , 
and fifth in order of merit. Originally , it was 
no more than the park belonging to the 
country-house, which Governor-Greneral Van 
Imhoff bmlt here in 1754: a house since 
destroyed by an earth-quake, and on the 
site of which the present lodge was erected. 

In this park. Professor Bernwardt, some 
eighty years ago, arranged a smaU botanic- 

13 



194 OF BUITENZOEG 



al garden, a "hortus" as the innocent pe- 
dantry of the period called it. The idea 
was to gather in this fertile spot speci- 
mens of aU the plants and trees, growing 
in Java, so as to afford men of science 
an opportunity for studying the flora of the 
island. By and bye , however , especially under 
the direction of Teysmann, many plants 
from other countries were introduced, with 
a view of acclimatizing them in Java, often 
with signal success. And, recently, a 
museum and a hhrary have been estabhshed , 
as well as several laboratories for chemical, 
botanical, and pharmaceutical research. For 
the cultivation of such plants as require a 
cool climate, gardens have been laid out on 
the terraced hill-side, in ascending tiers that 
climb up to the heights of Tji-Bodas, where 
in the early morning, the temperature is 
10° Celsius. These ameliorations , for the 
greater part, are due to the untiring energy 
of the eminent scientist now directing the 
garden. 
But , that morning , as I wandered through 



OF BUITENZOKG 



195 



the tall avenues of the Buitenzorg Park , the 
thought of its unportance as a scientific in- 
stitution disappeared before the perception 
of its exquisite loveliness. Not a beauty of 
line and colour merely : it has these — the 
park is admirably arranged, in broad effects 
of light and shadow, dark hued groves 
and avenues contrasting with sunny expanses 
of lawn and copse and mirroring lake; but 
there is somethiug over and above all this, 
an element of beauty as subtle and elusive 
as the transient sparkle of a sun-beam, or 
the fitful comings and goings of the summer 
wind. Perhaps it was the extraordinary bril- 
liancy of the colours, and the shimmer in 
the rain- saturated atmosphere: or perhaps 
it was the profound quietude all around, a 
stillness so perfect that it seemed it must 
endure for ever. I do not know what may 
have been the elements that made up the 
nameless charm. But I yielded myself up 
to it ; and it seemed to me , as if I were 
walking in a dream, amidst objects at once 
unreal and singularly distinct. For a long 



196 OF BUITENZOEa 



time I sat by the shore of a httle lake, 
that had an islet in the midst of it, aU 
overgrown with brushwood , and great tangles 
of hana, that opened hundreds of pale-violet 
flowers to the sunlight: in the centre there 
rose a group of young palms , of the sort 
that has a bright-red stem; and all these 
colours , the many-tinted green and the lilac 
and the scarlet were mirrored so vividly in 
the clear water as to almost make the reflec- 
tion seem brighter than the reality .... By 
and by , following a path that wandered out 
of sunshine into chequered shadow, and out 
of shadow into sunlight again, I came to a 
vast sweep of meadowy ground , where herds 
of reddish deer were feeding as peacefully 
as in a forest-clearing. Presently I foimd 
myself in a great dim avenue of kenari- 
trees, through whose sombre branches the 
sky showed but faintly: and anon in a 
bamboo-grove where there was a continual 
rustling and waving of leaves though not 
the slightest breath of wind could be felt 
to stir the air. 



or BUITENZORG 197 



Here and there through gaps in the trees, 
came a sudden ghmpse of the distant valley , 
with the river shining between the light-green 
rice fields, and beyond the encircling hills. 
Everywhere , too , the presence of living 
water made itself felt , in the cool damp air , 
and in the dehcious smell of moist earth, 
wet stones, and water-plants. And I would 
suddenly catch the silvery gleams , between 
the bushes , of a brooklet hurrying past over 
its pebbly bed , and foaming in small cascades 
that besprinkled the ferns and tall nodding 
grasses upon the bank with scintillating 
spray. Here and there , I heard the murmur 
and tinkle of a fountain: and I passed by 
quiet ponds and lakelets, dark green in the 
shadow of overhanging trees. One of these 
sheets of water — or rather the streamlet into 
which it narrows at one end — is completely 
overgrown with white lotus-flowers; and a 
sight more exquisitely beautiful cannot be 
imagined. It burst upon me suddenly, as 
I came out of a long, dark avenue; and, 
at first, I could not make out what that 



-■ o 



198 OF BUITENZORG 



white splendour was. It seemed to float 
like a luminous sum.mer-cloud, like a snowy 
drift of morning-mist. A breath of wind 
arose, and the even splendour trembled and 
seemed to break up into hundreds of white 
flames and sparks, that for an instant aU 
blew one way , and then shot up again , and 
stood steadily shining, As I came nearer, I 
discerned the great round white flowers, 
radiant in the sunshine. The circular, purplish- 
brown leaves spread aU over the surface of 
the water, covering it from bank to bank. 
And , out of these heaps of bronze shields , 
there rose the straight tall stems , like lances, 
with the white flame of the flower breaking 
out at the top — sparks of St. Elmo's fire, 
such as , on that memorable night , tipped 
the spears of the Roman cohorts , on theu' 
march to battle and victory. 

This field of radiant lotus-blossoms, and 
the sombre and solemn waringin avenue, 
contrasting glories, seem to me to be the 
crowning beauties of the Buitenzorg garden. 
The name o± Buitenzorg, by the bye, is an 



OF BUITENZORG 199 



innovation. Natives still call the town by 
its ancient name of Bogor, which it bore in 
the glorious age when it was the capital of 
the Hindoo realm of Padjadjaran. A Muslim 
conqueror, Hassan Udin, son of the Sheik 
Mulana, destroyed it; and a new town was 
reared on the ruins , but legends of its bygone 
glory still haunt the imagination of the coun- 
try folk. In the tales which they repeat to 
one another of an evening, the splendour of 
the ancient empire, and the wisdom and 
unconquerable valour of its founder are still 
remembered. Tjioeng Wonara was his name ; 
and his son and successor, the victorious 
Praboe Wangi , was even greater than he. In 
the craggy hOl-tops of the Gredeh-range , 
popular tradition sees the ruins of the splen- 
did palace he built himself on the heights; 
his hall where the throne of gold and ivory 
stood ; the temple , where he worshipped 
the gods ; the domes of his harem ; and the 
battlemented towers which his unconquerable 
warriors kept against the world, a thousand 
years ago. The southern wall of the Gedeh- 



200 OP BUITENZORG 



crater surrovtads , as an impregnable bulwark, 
the palace and temple courts. 

The Hindoo period, however, has left in 
this neighbourhood records more authentic 
than Praboe Wangi's fancy-built palace on 
the heights. Near a native kampong, which 
derives its name from this proximity, the 
so-called Batu Tiilis is found , a field covered 
with a quantity of stone slabs, some lying 
prone, others still upright, adorned with 
figures in bas-relief and covered with in- 
scriptions. The legend on the largest of 
these memorial tablets, traced in ancient 
Javanese characters, has been deciphered; it 
celebrates the virtues and victories of a 
Hindoo king. And the worn-away superscrip- 
tions and rude effigies discernible on the 
other stones probably commemorate con- 
temporary princes and warriors. The Bogor 
country-folk greatly venerate these relics of 
a glorious past. 

Carriers walking by the side of their lum- 
bering, bullock-drawn "pedati", which creaks 
so leisurely along the sun-scorched roads; 



OP BTOTENZORG- 201 



labourers on their way to the rice-fields, 
the light wooden ploughshare across their 
shoulders, driving the patient yoke of oxen 
before them; women from the hill- villages 
around, who come to the Bogor market in 
hohday attire , a chaplet of jessamine blossoms 
twisted into their "kondeh" — aU turn aside 
from the road, to murmur a short prayer, 
and offer a handful of flowers, of frank- 
incense and yellow boreh unguent, or even 
Chinese joss-sticks and small paper lanterns 
on the consecrated spot. Whether this be 
an act of homage to those ancient kings 
and heroes, whose rude effigies adorn the 
stones, and whose spirits are beheved still 
to haunt the spot; or simply a fetishistic 
adoration of these blocks of granite and 
the curious signs engraved thereon, it is 
difficult to decide; the worshippers them- 
selves hardly seem to know. When asked, 
they reply that they do as their fathers did 
before them, and as , therefore , must be right ; 
unless , indeed , they merely smile , and offer 
the somewhat irrelevant remark that they are 



202 OF BUITENZORG 



true Moslemin. This , indeed , every native 
of Java (save such few as have been con- 
verted to the Christian religion) professes 
himself to be. And, in a measure, the 
Javanese are Mohammedans ; they recite the 
Mohammedan prayers and Confession of 
Faith , go to the Messigit — which is Javanese 
for mosque — when it suits them, keep the 
Ramadan very strictly ; also , if they can 
afford it , they perform that most sacred duty 
of the Mohammedan , the Mecca pilgrimage , 
and, returniag thence, live for ever on the 
purses of their admiring co-religionists. But 
for the rest , one may apply to them Napoleon's 
dictum concerning the Russians^mutatis 
mutandis. Scratch the Muslim, and you wUl 
find the Hindoo ; scratch the Hindoo , and you 
will find the fetish-adoring Pagan. In the 
same way , too , as they confuse religious 
beliefs, they distort historical facts and tra- 
ditions so as to make them tally with the pre- 
valent opinions of the day. This Batu Tulis, for 
instance ; though they venerate it as a record 
of the Hindoo empire , they yet , at the same 



OF BUITENZOKG 203 



time , honour it as a monument of the Moham- 
medan conquest. According to them, these 
roughly-fashioned stones , of which , they say , 
there are over eight hundred dispersed through- 
out the neighbourhood, are the transformed 
shapes of Siliwangi, last King of Padjadjaran, 
and his followers , who , in this spot , their last 
refuge on flight from the victorious Muslim 
hosts , were turned into stones by Tuan Allah , 
as a punishment for their persistent refusal 
to embrace El-Islam: and the superscription 
celebrating the Hindoo prince they make out 
to be the record of this miracle. A touch of 
romance cUngs to the grim legend like a 
tender-petalled flower to a rock. It concerns 
the impress of a foot, visible on one of the 
slabs, and a fair princess who left it there, 
many centuries ago. Alone of all that multi- 
tude that fled with Siliwangi , she , the consort 
of valiant Poerwakali, his son, escaped the 
general doom, through the influence of an 
Arab priest who had converted her to the 
true religion. She could not, however, save 
her husband, whom, before her very eyes, 



204 OF BUITENZOEG 



she saw turned into a stone. But, in her 
faithful heart , love could not die , though the 
loved one was dead. The victor, vanquished 
in his turn by her incomparable beauty, im- 
plored her in vain. She would not be separated 
from her husband's inanimate shape, and, 
building herself a little hut under the waringin 
trees, she stiU, day by day, repaired to the 
stone, which bore Poerwakali's semblance, 
with sacrifices and prayers, and tears. And, 
often, in a transport of love and grief, she 
would throw her arms about the inert mass, clo- 
sely embracing it , and , into its deaf ear , mur- 
mur soft words , and vows of eternal loyalty , 
and bitter-sweet memories of the days that were 
no more. Her tears, still flowing, fell on the 
stone underfoot , day by day, month by month , 
year by year , until at last it became soft and 
yielding as clay, and received and retained 
the impress of those tender feet, which for 
so long had known no other resting place. 

From these memories of an empire over- 
thrown, a religion smitten with the edge of 
the sword , and a love stronger than death — 



OF BUITENZORG 205 



"old unhappy far-off things and battles long 
ago" — suggested by Batu Tulis , to the gaiety 
of the Buitenzorg races is a wide step. But 
our modern soiils have grown accustomed to 
these sudden transitions. In Java , more than 
in any other country , one must be prepared at 
any moment to pass from the fairy lands forlorn 
of history, to contemporary Philistia. Let me 
hasten to add, in justice, that I found that 
high festival of Phihstinism in Java, the 
Buitenzorg races, both amusing and full of 
interest. The crowded Stands gave one an 
"impression d'ensemble" of society in the 
colony, such as would be expected in vain 
on any other occasion — formal functionaries 
and business men from the hot towns with 
their exquisitely dressed , pale-faced wives and 
daughters , mingling with sunburnt planters 
from the interior, and rosy-cheeked girls 
from the neighbouring hill-stations , in white 
muslin frocks , brightened up by flowers such 
as those grown at home. And the spectacle 
of the races, exciting in itself, is rendered 
the more interesting by the changes and 



206 OF BUITENZOEG 



transformations which an essentially northern 
sport has suffered under the sun of the 
tropics — by the substitution of Sandalwood 
and Battak ponies for horses, of native syces, 
who clutch the stirrup with bare toes , for 
jockeys, and of sUent multitudes brightly 
garbed, for the black-coated crowds that 
shout and huzza at Epsom or Longchamps. 



In the Hill Country 

Among other Western ideas and institu- 
tions, the Hollanders have imported into 
Java that of health-resorts. Erstwhile lonely 
hills now bear hotels and "pavilions" upon 
their disforested summits; picnics are held 
in glades where , a few years ago , the timid 
antelopes fed; and Strausz's waltzes have 
reduced to silence the noisy cicadas. In the 
country south and east of Batavia, in the 
Gedeh-hills , and in the Preanger district , 
there are several of these hUl-stations. There, 
the air is pure and cool, in the months 
when the hot east monsoon scorches the plains. 
There is Tji-Panas Tji-Bodas, Soekaboemi, 



208 m THE HILL COUNTRY 

Sindanglaya , Tjandjoer, the country round 
about Bandong , and , somewhat farther east, 
Graroet , aU of which places are easily access- 
ible from Batavia. The hotels are generally 
airy, roomy, and clean, if not elegant; the 
food is fairly good, and the charges mode- 
rate, about four dollars a day, the average 
rate throughout Java. 

The Preanger district, in which Garoet, 
Bandong, and Tjandjoer are situated — the 
"Garden of Java" as it is fitly named — in 
more than one respect reminds the traveller 
of the Italian hUl-country. There is the same 
clearness in the profiles of the mountain- 
ranges; the same transparency of the air, 
which causes distant objects to appear quite 
near, and reveals their contour rather than 
their modelling; the same jewel-like sparkle 
in the colouring of the landscape, in the 
clear-hued green of vaUey and hill-side, 
in the changeful hues of the water, and 
in the blue, opal, and roseate violet of 
the distances under an azure sky. The thia 
pure air is as cool as weU- water; in the 



IN THE HILL COUNTRY 209 

evenings one has to kindle a fire in 
order to keep warm: and walks of several 
hours cause neither heat nor fatigue in this 
bracing climate, which makes even natives 
quicken their naturally slow movements, 
and which tinges their brown complexions 
with a flush of healthy red. In the fields, 
corn is seen instead of rice, and, in places, 
golden wheat waves. The gardens are fra- 
grant with mignonette hehotropes , and car- 
nations: moss-roses flourish, velvety pansies, 
geraniums, fachsias, phlox in all its count- 
less varieties of briUiant colours, and the 
tender forget-me-nots of northern brooksides. 
Strawberries, along with clusters of the blue 
and white grape show between the dense 
foliage of the vines. At certain seasons of the 
year, the hills are purple with the blossoms 
of the rasamala tree , — a magnificent growth 
which throws out its first branches at a height 
of a hundred feet, and the summit of which 
reaches an altitude of a hundred and eighty. 
The most splendid orchids are found in the 
woods , side by side with mushrooms of extra- 

14 



210 IN THE HILL COUNTRY 

ordinary dimensions some of three feet in 
diameter , and of strange and brilliant colours. 
On all sides, too, there is a sparkle of living 
water as limpid as the air itself, leaping 
down the rocky hill-sides in innmnerable 
cataracts and shining in broad tranquil lakes 
that mirror the encirchng hill tops and the 
clouds sailing overhead. As one reaches high- 
er levels , from about four thousand feet 
above the sea level to six thousand and 
upwards, the changes in the landscape be- 
come more and more marked. The Flame of the 
Forest, the kambodja, the champaka, and 
all the countless host of large-flowered trees , 
characteristic of the tropics , disappear. The 
type of the fohage changes : it is less fantas- 
tic in shape, less luxuriant, and differently 
tinted from the leafage of the lowland forests. 
To the sombre green of the plains , which , 
under the glaring sunlight , assumes tones of 
an almost blackish blue, succeeds a vivid 
emerald, touched with tender yellow. Then 
come dense forests of "tjemara" a coniferous 
tree the dim greyish foliage of which resem- 



IN THE HILL COUNTRY 211 

bles a drift of autumnal mist: and, by and 
bye, trees of the oak and chestnut kind 
appear, and then the maple that balances 
its fan-like leaves on bright red stalks. Vio- 
lets open their purple chalices in mossy 
hollows. On the cloudy mountain heights 
of Tosari, one may gather flowers such as 
grow on the Alps. The scenery here is 
grand beyond description — a landscape of 
vast hill ranges, cataracts, and precipices, 
and heaving seas of cloud. The temperature 
is almost too low ; big fires are kept burning 
all day in the hotel, through the verandahs 
of which the clouds float past. The one thing 
that stfll reminds the traveller of the tropics 
is the wonderful splendour of the orchids that 
grow here. In the fourth zone, at an altitude 
of from seven thousand to ten thousand feet , 
the orchids , too , disappear. A European vege- 
tation covers the summits of the mountains 
and the chill "plateau" of the Djeng, where 
four wonderful lakes of green, and blue, 
and yellow, and pure white water sparkle 
in the sunlight, and the nights are frosty. 



212 IN THE HILL COUNTRY 

These wonders of the Javanese hill-comitry 
are well known, from the descriptions of 
many able pens, and from the enthusiastic 
reports of travellers. But, here and here, in 
the folds of the lower hills , there are pleas- 
ant nooks and corners, all but ignored of 
the multitude , and hardly iuferior in beauty 
to these famous sites, albeit beauty of a 
very " different character. And , among these 
places, the idyllic grace of which has not 
yet been marred by railroads and hotels, 
few can surpass in loveliness the country 
round about the Tjerimai, where it was my 
good fortune to spend several pleasant days , 
last June. 

The Tjerimai , a spur of the lofty Preanger 
range, is situated on the confines of the Pre- 
anger Regencies and the Cheribon district, 
the broad green plains and marshy coast of 
which its finely- shaped summit dominates — a 
landmark to sailors. 

. From Batavia, the way thither leads 
through some of the loveliest scenery in 
Java — past Buitenzorg and Bandong , straight 



m THE HILL COUNTBY 213 

across the Preanger. Rantja-ekkek, a village 
in the vast plain which begins an hour or 
so east of Bandong, is the last railroad- 
station on the route. There, the noise, the 
hvirry , and the bustle of western civihzation 
cease , as if arrested by some invisible barrier : 
and the traveller enters the real Java , the Java 
of the Javanese, the tranquil land of plenty, 
the inhabitants of which lead their leisurely 
lives without much more thought of the 
morrow than the tall gandasoli lilies of their 
fields. — When we two — the friend whom I 
accompanied to her home among the hills , 
and myself — reached this stage of our journey, 
the day was still young. The summits of the 
hills, which bound the plain on the west, 
had already assumed their sober day colours 
— -greyish brown and dark green. But the 
distant eastern range stood out in violet 
gleam against a sky of crimson and orange: 
and the intervening plain was a lake of' 
whitish waving mist. The air had a peculiar, 
sweetish taste — like an insipid fruit-which 
reminded me of early autumn mornings at 



214 IN THE HILL COTJNTRY 

home. It was cold, too. Our native servants 
went with heads and shoulders wrapped up: 
and the breath of the ponies waiting for us 
at the station made httle clouds about then- 
heads. We were grateful for the plaids which 
we found in the carriage. 

The road lay straight before us — a long 
white streak through the soft misty green 
of the plain. As we drove along, the pink 
sheen, which rested on the hazy hillside 
to our left, like a handful of scattered 
roses, began to spread and glide down into 
the valley, kindling as it flowed, untU the 
whole vast vapoury plain was suffused with 
purple. The mist began to dissolve , and float 
upwards in little crimson drifts. Suddenly, 
the great golden sun leaped up from behiad 
the eastern summits , and day streamed in 
upon us. The country-folk had already begun 
the labours of the day. Chfldren met us on 
the road, driving powerful grey buffaloes 
before them: in a hamlet which we passed, 
the women were pounding rice, breaking 
the silence of the morning with the rhythmic 



IN THE HILL COUNTEY 215 

click-clack of the wooden pestles. And, here 
and there , groups of labourers moved through 
the rice fields, weeding. Overhead, larks 
were soaring and singing; it was the first 
time I had heard their sweet shrill note in 
Java. After a while, a partridge flew up 
with a whirr of hurrying wings , ahnost from 
between the hoofs of the horses. They are 
plentiful in this neighbourhood. At certain 
seasons of the year, large parties of sports- 
men assemble here to shoot them. 

On starting from the railway station, I 
had thought that , in half an hour or so , we 
would have reached the hilL-range, which 
bounded the plain in the north. But the clear 
atmosphere has a perspective of its own, 
confusing to eyes unaccustomed to it. After 
about two hours of rapid driving we were 
still in the valley — on either side of us , im- 
mense tracts of soft bluish green, full of the 
thousand lights and shades that form the 
peculiar beauty of these terraced rice-fields; 
and , all around , the circling summits which 
seemed no sensibly nearer than at first. 



216 IN THE HILL COUNTRY 



At every turn of the road, I expected to 
reach the base of the hills. And, again and 
again, they appeared to recede as we ad- 
vanced , until the fancy was stirred to the idea 
of some magic wall still environing the cap- 
tive, withersoever he might turn: and the 
wish to find an exit out of this hill-bounded 
plain grew almost to a fever. At length, we 
reached it — a narrow defile between two 
steep green heights: and the road began to 
climb. Here, in the deep glens and valleys, 
the air was notably cooler than on the 
sunlit plain. Where the raod broadened, it 
was shaded by tall njamploeng trees, which 
strewed the ground with their white trans- 
parent blossoms : and their faint fresh odour , 
which reminded one of the scent of March 
violets, perfumed the breeze. 

Meanwhile, we had changed horses at a 
"gladak" — a nondescript wooden shed — sta- 
ble, bam, and hostelry for native wayfarers 
in one— with a spacious thoroughfare leading 
right through it. And our shaggy ponies 
trotted along with a right good wUl, until 



IN THE HILL COUNTRY 217 

they came to a sudden stand at the bottom 
of a hill. "Gladakkers," as these ugly Uttle 
animals are called, are notorious for freak- 
ishness and perversity, and often, without 
any apparent reason, will stand stockstUl 
in the middle of the road, and refuse to 
move another step. But this time , as I soon 
found, they were moved by no such perverse 
whim; they knew their duty, and that the 
dragging of carriages up this particular hill 
was in no way a part of it. When the 
syce had uaharnessed them, they turned 
aside , and began to crop the dewy grass by 
the way-side , as if work were over for that day. 
And, presently, their substitutes, a pair of 
powerful grey buffaloes , appeared goaded on 
by their owner. Slowly, the majestic brutes 
descended the hill, bendiag a broad splen- 
didly-horned head and an enormous neck 
under a triangular bamboo yoke, and sen- 
ding forth the breath in clouds from their 
large nostrils. They drew the carriage uphill 
without any apparent effort, still moving 
onward with that same slow , strong , steady 



218 IN THE HILL COUNTRY 

gait, which neither the impatient shouts of 
our syce, nor the goad which their owner 
pHed , could make them accelerate one whit. 
At the summit, they halted of their own 
accord ; and , as soon as they felt their necks 
free of the harness , turned and went. As 
they passed me , the curved horn of the one 
just grazing my shoulder, they seemed to 
me the personification of resistless strength, 
unconscious of its own power , and patiently 
subservient. Their large beautiful eyes had a 
look of meekness most pathetic in so tremen- 
dous a creature. 

After this steep hill, the ascent became 
easy and gradual , and the ponies trotted on 
at a good round pace. The road still kept 
zig-zagging between steep hiU-sides, densely 
overgrown with nipah-palm, banana, and 
dark-leaved brushwood, which shut out the 
view of the landscape. And I remember no 
note-worthy incident, except the passing of 
a native market , a "passar ," in a spot where 
the road broadened a little, and where an 
impetuous brook, that came bounding down 



IN THE HILL COUNTRY '219 

the hill-side, spouted from a sort of primitive 
aqueduct , made of bamboo. Half a score of 
naked children were bathing themselves under 
the icy "douche," whilst their parents stood 
bargaining and chaffering at the narrow 
booths that adhered to the steep hill-side like 
swallows' nests to a house-wall. As we ap- 
proached , the whole company , men , women , 
and children , squatted down with one accord , 
as if they had been so many puppets pulled 
by a string. One very fat baby , his fists and 
his mouth fall of sweetmeats , stood staring 
at us in round-eyed surprise ; but his mother 
managed to catch him and draw him down 
to his little haunches, just in the nick of 
time; and the whole company remained in 
this crouching posture until our carriage 
rounded the bend of the road. 

At Batavia, where the manners of the 
natives have suffered a change — a change for 
the worse , as some maintain — by contact with 
Europeans , I had never witnessed this peculiar 
mode of salutation. And I confess I was pain- 
fully impressed by it, the more so as my 



220 IN THE HILL COUNTRY 

friend warned me that native etiquette forbade 
my acknowledging -the humble greeting by 
so much as a nod. I do not know whether 
it was the abjectness of their semi-prostration , 
or the seemingly gratuitous insolence of our 
thus ignoring it , that I felt as the more acute 
humiliation to human dignity. But , after all , 
the only way to rightly judge the manners 
and customs of a country is to look at them 
from the point of view of the natives; and, 
to a Javanese, there is nothing undignified 
in a salutation which impresses us as slavish. 
He squats down, just as a European rises, 
ia the presence of a superior. It is a token 
of respect ; nothing more. And the superior's 
apparent tmconsciousness of this greeting 
means no more rudeness than the famihar 
nod with which in Europe a gentleman 
might answer a labourer's or artisan's raising 
of his cap. "The way of the land, the 
honour of the land," as the Dutch proverb 
puts it. 

On the point of etiquette, the Javanese, 
moreover, are infinitely more punctilious than 



IN THE HILL COUNTRY 221 

any western people of our period. I believe 
they might even be said to surpass the 
Spaniards of the time of Philip II, in the 
elaborateness of their code of manners and 
in their strict adlierence to its requirements. 
Every possible circumstance and occurence 
in life have been foreseen, and the appro- 
priate conduct noted down in the unwritten 
laws of the "adat"; the attitude , the gesture , 
and the set phrase , are all prescribed , down 
to the smallest detail. Nor is it a question 
of phraseology only: the very language is 
subject to the regulations of the adat , which 
distiuguishes three separate and altogether 
different kinds of Javanese, according as a 
man speaks to his superior , his equal , or his 
inferior. For speech to one higher in rank, 
there is the "Kj-omo;" commands to a sub- 
ordinate are given in "Ngoko;" friends 
famiharly converse in a third idiom into which 
elements of the other two enter. The theory 
of these three kinds of Javanese is a science 
by itself, and one not easily acquired by a 
westerner. At the same time, it is impera- 



222 IN THE HILL COUNTRY 

tively necessary to him. , if he would gain the 
esteem of the natives ; for the use of a Ngoko 
word when a Kromo term should have been 
employed, would mark the offender with an 
indelible brand of vulgarity and iU-breeding. 
When the Bible was being translated iato 
Javanese, this peculiarity of etiquette proved 
a considerable difficulty; and the missionaries 
had to consult countless authorities and com- 
pare a thousand precedents , before they could 
settle the question whether Christ should 
address Pilate in Kromo or in Ngoko, or in 
the third idiom. A solecism would have fatally 
injured the "prestige" of the new rehgion: 
and its ministers could not have escaped 
the accusation of being "koerang atjar" 
which being translated into Enghsh means 
"ill-bred." 

The expression , which , literally translated, 
means "one that has not eaten enough 
vegetables ," requires some explanation. It is 
the custom, at the birth of a chUd, for the 
parents to offer a feast to their friends and 
relations; and, at this banquet, the dishes 



IN THE HILL COUNTRY 223 

of "atjar" should be as numerous as possible. 
It is believed that every individual dish of 
vegetable ensures a mystically-corresponding 
quahty or virtue to the babe in whose 
honour the feast is given. Thus , if a person 
in later life show a lack of courage, gene- 
rosity, or, above all, of courtesy, which is 
regarded as the virtue par excellence, the 
inference is that his parents and friends 
must have neglected to give him his due 
allowance of vegetables at the birth feast: 
and he is pronounced to be "koerang atjar," 
"short of vegetables." It was in order to 
avoid this qualification, that my friend and 
I seeing the coim.try folk at the "passar" 
squat down in the dusty road, passed on, 
without so much as looking at them. 

Towards eleven o'clock, we reached the 
highest point of our journey — a ledge upon 
the mountain-side caUed Njadas Pangeran. 
Here, the hills on the right suddenly fell 
away, and the broad green plains of Cheri- 
bon lay disclosed, dazzling with sunlight 
and living water. At our feet, away far 



224 IN THE HILL COUNTBY 

below, lay a brown hamlet in the midst of 
sawahs, like a lark's nest in a field of 
clover: and the hUls through which we had 
threaded our way, since dawn, hung in the 
western distance like massy clouds, tinted 
with brown and violet, and an exquisite, 
pale, half-transparent blue. We paused here 
for some minutes, to rest the horses, whilst 
we gathered armfiils of a splendid orchid 
which grew in profusion on the hill-side — 
great shiny snow-flakes of blossoms , with a 
touch of carmiae on the curling petals ; and 
then resumed the journey along a road which 
steadily sloped to the bottom of the vaUey. 
A muddy river runs through it, which we 
crossed on a primitive kind of ferry — ^the 
carriage , horses , and aU standing on a raft, 
which a score of natives dragged and pushed 
across the shallow water. On the other bank, 
the road began to ascend again: we had 
reached the base of the Tjerimai: and a 
drive of some two or three hours more, 
along a smooth road that passed by prosper- 
ous sugar-cane plantations waving in the 



m THE HILL COUNTRY 225 

breeze with thousands of glossy green stream- 
ers , brought us at length to our destination 
— ^the little bamboo cottage upon the hill- 
side , whither my friends repaired for a spell 
of coolness and a breath of mountain-air, 
when the heat rendered the sojourn on their 
estate in the plains unendurable. It was 
about four in the afternoon when we entered 
the garden gates, and the air was as fresh 
as in the early morning. The breeze rustled 
through the tall flower-laden njamploeng- 
trees on the road-side; there was a smell of 
water and moist stones in the air; I heard 
the murmur of a brook over its rocky bed. 
This was the country of which hot dust- 
stifled Batavia was the capital. The thing 
seemed scarcely credible. 



15 



In the Dessa 



Our bungalaw on the Tjerimai hill-side was 
situated in the near neighbourhood of a native 
dessa. But we had been there for sometime, 
before I became aware of the fact. And my 
first glimpse of the village was a surprise as 
fascinating as it was sudden. 

It chanced in the course of a cool clear 
morning, as we rode along on our way to 
the sacred grove of Sangean and the legend- 
haunted lake in its shadow. 

We had been skirting for some time what 
seemed to be an unusually dense bamboo- 
wood , when suddenly , in the wall of crowded 
stems, there appeared a breach and framed 



IN THE DESSA 227 



in it , lo ! a prospect of brown huts , with 
flowering fruit-trees set between , and a well- 
kept road in the middle, on which a score 
of children were playing about. A plough- 
man came along , driving a pair of grey buf- 
faloes before him, women were coming and 
going, carrying water-pitchers and piled-up 
baskets of fruit on their erect head ; it was 
a busy hamlet in the heart of the wood. 

We entered, passing from the sunny hill- 
side into the green twihght among the trees , 
and out again upon the village road , flecked 
with changeful Hghts and shadows. It was 
trim arid clean as a garden-path. The huts 
on either side of it had a prosperous look, 
each standing in its own patch of ground, 
surrounded by fruit-trees — mangoes , bananas 
and djamboes that turned the soil purple with 
their fallen blossoms. The rice-barns shaped 
like a child's cradle , narrow at the base , and 
broadening out towards the top, were full 
of sweet new rice and in the sheds sleek 
dun-coloured cattle stood patiently chewing 
the cud. 



228 IN THE DESSA 



I saw no men about , they were probably at 
work on the outlying rice-fields. But here and 
there, under the pent-roofs, of the houses, 
women sat at their looms busily weaving 
sarong-cloth. And on the doorsteps plump 
brown babies were rolling about. 

One hut we passed, where a very old 
man sat playing with a tiny baby, so exceed- 
ingly pretty , that we could not help stopping 
to admire it. With a proud smile he told us 
it was his great-grandchild. Its father and 
mother were living with him , and so indeed 
were all the other members of his numerous 
family, sons and daughters and grandsons 
and granddaughters who, each in turn, had 
wedded and brought a wife or a husband to 
the parental home. 

„ There are over a score of them" said the 
patriarch proudly. To him had, in truth, 
been granted the prayer, which, on their 
wedding-day Javanese couples put up to 
the gods. „Grive us a progeny like to the 
spreading crown of the waringin tree." And 
the venerable sire, trusting in his helpless 



IN THE DESSA 229 



old age to the love and piety of his chil- 
dren, reminded one of the parent trunk, 
which, even decaying, is still upheld by the 
stalwart young trees that have sprung up 
around it. 

We asked after his family. The children, 
the old man answered, were all out in the 
fields ; no hands could be spared from the 
work just now. Only his youngest grand- 
daughter , the baby's mother , had stayed in 
the house, to look after the little one, and 
cook the family-dinner. Yonder she was , at 
her batik-frame, painting the sarong-cloth 
with flowers and butterflies. The girl looked 
up as he spoke, turning a pretty face on 
us : and smiled. 

„Ah! happy those that live among the 
woods and fields, if they but knew their 
happiness . ..." It seemed to me that these 
dessa-folk knew theirs. 

And I filled my eyes and my heart with the 
scene before me — the low , brown roofs amidst 
the fruit-trees , the merry- eyed children at 
play, the leisurely comings and goings of 



230 IN THE DESSA 



the women upon their daily occupation, 
with the rustling coolness and the soft green 
light of the bamboo leafage over it all ; gathe- 
ring all the gladsome beauty of it, that it 
might keep fresh and fragrant my thoughts , 
when I should have returned to the world 
outside , to the weariness , the fever and the 
fret to which we of the conquering race have 
condemned ourselves. 

As we rode on, and the wood-enshriaed 
hamlet disappeared among the folds of the 
hill-range , like the beautiful day-dream it 
all but seemed to me, I learnt that it was 
but a fair type of the prosperous dessa, 
such as it is found throughout the length and 
breadth of Java. 

The plan and general appearance of these 
native villages are always the same — a 
cluster of huts, each standing in its own 
patch of ground, surrounded by a quickset 
hedge ; a main road from which nume- 
rous bye-paths diverge, leading through: in 
the centre an open square , shaded by 
waringin trees, fronting the mosque; then, 



m THE DESSA 231 



surrounding the whole , a dense plantation of 
bamboo trees, which completely hides the 
village from sight. Around stretch meadows , 
rice-fields, and plantations of nipah-palm, 
which, in many cases, are the property of 
the community. 

"Where this particular form of proprietor- 
ship obtains, the village authorities assign 
portions of the communal fields in usufruct to 
such inhabitants of the dessa as will pledge 
themselves in return to pay certain taxes , 
and to perform certain duties entailed by the 
possession of landed property; the principal 
of which are, keeping the roads and irriga- 
tion works in repair , and guarding the gates 
or patrolling the streets at night. Moreover in 
all matters touching the cultivation of these 
fields , they are obhged to observe the prescrip- 
tions of the "adat," and such regulations as the 
village authorities may deem proper to make. 

Very strict supervision is excercised in this 
matter, so as to prevent the occupant from 
exhausting, either through ignorance or 
neglect, the field, which, at the expiration 



232 m THE DESSA 



of his lease, will be allotted to another member 
of the community. Disobedience to the com- 
mands of the village authorities is punishable 
by forfeiture of the right of occupation. 

In most districts , this communal right alter- 
nates with private proprietorship. 

According to the ancient custom, which 
has been ratified by the Colonial Regulat- 
ions, whosoever, of his own free will, re- 
claims a piece of waste ground, by that act 
acquires the possession of the same , and the 
right to transmit it to his heirs , the "here- 
ditary individual right," as the legal term 
is. Any native, desirous to obtaia land on 
these terms, can apply for permission to the 
Grovernment , which , having taken the place 
of the ancient Sultans, is considered as the 
„Sovereign of the Soil." This permission is 
never refused. So that, under the communal 
regime as under the system of hereditary 
individual ownership, anyone who has the 
wUl to work is sure of being able to earn a 
sufficiency for himself and his family. There 
need be no unemployed : there are no paupers 




Native nobleman and his wife. 



IN THE DESSA 



283 



in our sense of the word. It should be added , 
that the right of usufruct under the system 
of communal possession, can be converted 
into that of "hereditary individual ownership". 
But the inherited communistic sentiment is 
so strongly developed in the people of the 
dessa, that they but rarely, if ever, avail 
themselves of the facihties, which the law 
offers them in this respect; they prefer that 
the community should own the soil. 

As might be expected the principle of 
solidarity which pervades these laws and 
customs , manifests itself even more strongly 
in the domestic life of the dessa-folk. 

The ties of kinship — though not those of 
raarriage — are much respected by them. 
Parents are so absolutely sure of the love 
and filial piety of their children, that they 
often, as they grow older, abandon all their 
property to them, content to Uve for the 
remainder of their days as their sons' and 
daughters' pensioners. And even the most 
distant relation, who, like the nearest, is 
termed brother or sister, may count, incase 



234 IN THE DESSA 



of need, upon assistance and hospitality. 
Parents are free to bequeath their property 
as they like ; and they sometimes give every- 
thing to the first-born son or daughter, without 
any of the other children protesting. But, 
just as frequently, the heritage is left to aU 
the descendants in common, when the paternal 
house is enlarged, so as to afford room for 
all the married sons and daughters and their 
families; and the produce of the fields is 
equally divided amongst them, as they equally 
divide the labour and the toil. Thus , through 
all chances and changes, the communistic 
principle is still maintained in the small 
community of the family, as in the greater 
one of the dessa. And indeed it may be said 
that the dessa is but the enlarged paternal 
house of the Javanese. All the inhabitants 
of it are his kinsfolk and nearest of blood, 
whose interests are his own, whose prosperity 
or misery is bound up with his , and who are 
his natural allies in defending the common 
inheritance against the stranger. The bamboo 
enclosure which defines and defends the dessa 



IN THE DESSA 235 



and the environing fields — the common pos- 
session of all — are the symbols and the out- 
ward visible signs of this. 

Such then are the conditions which deter- 
mine the existence of the Javanese husband- 
man — a happy life on the whole, exempt 
from hardship, excessive toil and care, and 
not without dignity or idyllic grace. 

The dessa-man has to work , certainly , but 
he need not slave ; a very moderate exertion 
is sufficient to procure him what food and 
raiment he wants. His neighbours are his 
next of kin , and spite occasional bickerings , 
his helpful friends. He has himself chosen the 
village-chief to whose authority he defers, 
and is free to follow that ancestral law of 
the adat, which, to him, is the embodiment 
of supreme wisdom and justice. And as he 
goes about his daily business, his labour in 
wood and field, still keeping time to the 
recurrent rhythm of the seasons , is graced 
by many a ceremony and religious rite , which 
while honouring the gods , rejoices the hearts 
of the worshippers. 



236 IN THE DESSA 



At these religious festivals, called "Sedeka", 
sacrifices of flowers and fruits are offered 
to the deity and the ancient, naive idea, that 
what is pleasant to human beings must also 
be acceptable to the gods, causes the Javanese 
to lay on his altar offering of the eatables 
he is fondest of himself. Such as spice-flavour- 
ed rice and all manner of sweetmeats. 

In this he does but as Jews and Grreeks 
did before him. But there is one detail about 
Javanese sacrificial rites , which distinguishes 
them from those of every other nation and 
rehgion , — a feature , which one is never quite 
sure whether to call eminently spiritual or 
naively gross and selfish. Of the food offered 
they believe the deity to enjoy the savour 
only; the celestial being disdains the material 
part. And so the worshippers, after a decorous 
interval o± waiting , when they may suppose 
the invisible and imponderable essence of the 
meal to have been absorbed by the god , make 
a cheerful repast on the visible and ponder- 
able parts left on the altar, thus combining 
piety and high living in one and the same 



IN THE DESSA 237 



act. In Java, if anywhere, it may be said, 
that, when the gods are honoured the people 
fare well. 

It would be somewhat invidious to inquire 
whether piety or appetite be the impelhng 
motive ; but , from whatever cause , the Java- 
nese are most assiduous in the performance 
of sacrificial rites. Not only are the cardinal 
events of human existence , births , marriages 
and deaths — and the recurrent epochs of the 
agricultural year honoured with solemn obser- 
vances, but any and every incident of daily 
existence is made theoccasionof a "Sedeka". 

Sedeka is offered on setting out on a jour- 
ney , on entering into any contract or agree- 
ment, on moving into a new house , on taking 
possession of a newly-acquired field : the sacri- 
fice being offcenest dedicated to the "Danh- 
jang dessa," tutelary genius of towns and 
villages; to the spirits who render the soU 
fertile ; to the goddess Sri , protectress of the 
rice crops ; and to all the ancestors , up to 
Father Adam and Mother Eve. Then too , side 
by side with these benignant deities, the 



238 IN THE DESSA 



wicked "seitans" and djinns are worshipped, 
the princes of the air, as powerful for evil 
as Sri and the Danhjang Dessa are for good. 
It is they who send plagues and pestilence, 
who make the babe to die at its mother's 
breast, and the buffalo to drop dead on the 
half-ploughed field; who cause fires to de- 
stroy villages , and floods to sweep away the 
standing crops ; and who seduce men to theft 
deceit, robbery, and violence. Since, then, 
they are so powerful for harm, it is wise to 
keep on terms of amity with them , and give 
even the Devil his due, bringing him the 
appointed sacrifices of eggs and yellow boreh- 
unguent and jessamine blossoms. 

These evil spirits, it should be noted, are 
exceedingly jealous, and one should never 
glory in the possession of any desirable thing , 
such as good health , riches , power , or , above 
all, fine children, lest in their spite, they 
should turn these blessings into curses. But 
humihty , or still better contempt of the 
things men generally covet, conciliates them. 
Wherefore a Javanese mother wiU often caU 



IN THE DESSA 239 



her child , more particularly if it be remarkable 
for grace and beauty , by a name implying that 
it is hateful, ugly and altogether worthless. 
Among the saints of El-Islam, Joseph the 
father of the christian prophet Jesus , is the 
one whom Javanese matrons venerate above 
all others ; from him they implore the gift 
of beauty for their children, nor do they 
implore in vain. Javanese babies are abso- 
lutely charming. The briUiancy of their black 
eyes, and the dusky tints of their soft skin 
give their round little faces a piquancy 
altogether fascinating. The blue eyes, fair hair 
and pale complexion of Dutch children seem 
insipid by comparison. Now and then one 
sees faces amongst them , innocent and earnest 
as those which on Murillo's canvases sur- 
round the Madonna in cloud-hke clusters. 
But alas ! these heavenly memories fade soon. 
The suns of a few East monsoons utterly 
wither them. Villon, could he see the grown 
up youths and maidens of Java , would vary 
his melancholy refrain about fair dead ladies. 
"But where are the babes of yester-year?" 



240 IN THE DESSA 



Among adults beauty is as rare as , among 
children, it is common. So that after all, it 
seems Saint Joseph takes the prayer for fine 
children "at the foot of the letter" and answers 
the petition in a somewhat ironical spirit. 

Of the many "Sedeka's" which grace the 
agricultural year, those connected with the 
cultivation of the rice-plant are the most 
important. Java is essentially what, according 
to tradition, its ancient name betokens — the 
Land of the Rice. The whole island is one 
vast rice-field. Rice on the swampy plains, 
rice on the rising ground , rice on the slopes , 
rice on the very summits of the hills. From 
the sod under one's feet to the uttermost verge 
of the horizon, everything has one and the 
same colour, the bluish green of the young, 
or the tawny gold of the ripened rice. The 
natives are all, without exception, tillers of 
the soil, who reckon their lives by seasons 
of planting and reaping , whose happiness or 
misery is synon5Tiious with the abundance 
or the dearth of the precious grain. And the 
great national feast is the harvest home, 




T- 



mm i niip i iiig. fi W ^w^"" • 




A Javanese Family. 



IN THE DESSA 241 



with its crowning ceremony of the Wedding 
of the Rice. 

In order to approximately understand the 
meaning of this strange rite, it should he 
home in mind that a Javanese, similar La 
this respect to the ancient Greek, beheves all 
nature to be endowed with a semi-divine 
life. To him a tree is not a mere vegetable, 
nor a rock a mere mass of stone, nor the 
sea a mere body of water, any more than 
he regards a human being as a mere aggregate 
of flesh , blood , and bone. A hidden principle 
of hfe, invisible, imponderable, and powerful 
for good or evil animates the seemingly inert 
matter. In this sense, a Javanese believes 
in the soul of a plant or a rock almost as 
he believes in the soul of a human being. 
And this soul he endeavours to propitiate 
with prayers , libations and offerings of fruit 
and flowers. Hence the frequent altars under 
old waringia-trees , in which the Danhjang 
dessa , tutelary genius of towns and vfllages , 
is believed to dweU. Hence the solemn sacri- 
j&ces to the Lady of the Sea , Njai Loro Kidoel , 

16 



242 IN THE DESSA 



who has her shrine on the rocky south-coast. 
And hence too the rites in honour of Dewi 
Sri, the Javanese Demeter, whose soul ani- 
mates the rice-plant, — rites which culminate 
in the Wedding of the Rice. 

At every Harvest-Home this mystical cere- 
mony , the Pari Penganten , is celebrated ; and 
the manner of its conducting is as foUows: 

As soon as the owner of a field sees his 
rice ripening, he goes to the "doekoen-sawah" 
literally, the "medecine man of the rice-field", 
to consult him as to the day and hour when 
it will be imeet to begin the harvest. This 



to a Javanese, is a most important matter, 
and it requires all the astrological, necro- 
mantic and cabbalistic knowledge of the 
doekoen-sawah to settle it. For there are many 
unlucky days in the Javanese year, and any 
enterprise begun on such a day is doomed 
to inevitable failure. After long and intricate 
calculations , into which the cabbalistic val- 
ues corresponding to the year, the month, 
the day, and the hour enter, an acceptable 
date is at last fixed upon by the doekoen- 



IN THE DESSA 243 



sawah , on which, the selection of the Rice- 
Bride and Bridegroom is to take place. 

On the appointed day , having first solemnly 
consecrated the field by walking round it 
with a bundle of burning rice- straw in his 
hand, and by the planting of tall glagah- 
stalks at each of the four corners , in- 
voking Dewi Sri as he does so , — the doekoen 
begins to search for two stalks of rice 
exactly equal in length and thickness, and 
growing near each other. When these are 
found , four more are hunted for , two pairs 
of absolutely similar ears of rice. The first 
couple are the Bride and Bridegroom; the 
four others the bridesmaids and the "best 
men ," (if the term may be used to designate 
what the French caU garcons d'honneur.) 
These couples are now tied together as they 
stand, with strips of palm-leaves, and the 
doekoen invokes onthem the blessing of Dewi 
Sri. Then he addresses the Rice-Bride and 
the Rice-Bridegroom, asking them, each in 
turn, whether they accept each other as 
husband and wife , and answering again. The 



244 IN THE DESSA 



marriage now is concluded; the stalks are 
smeared with yellow boreh-unguent , deco- 
rated with garlands, and shaded from the 
sun by a tiny awning of palm leaves , whilst 
the stalks round about are cut off. 

Now the doekoen, the owner of the field 
and his famUy, and all those who have in 
any way helped in preparing the "Sawah," 
or planting the rice, sit down to a "Slamet- 
tan," a repast which is at the same time 
a sacrifice to the gods, and a further cele- 
bration of the marriage just contracted ; and, 
at the end of the banquet, the doekoen, 
rising up, solemnly declares that the hour 
of the harvest has come. 

Now, it is the kindly custom of Javanese 
land-owners to invite to the harvest-feast all 
who , during the past month , have taken any 
part, however slight, in the cultivation of 
the Sawah. And as, under so elaborate a 
system of agriculture as is demanded by 
the growing of rice, these are necessarily 
many , the Pari Penganten is a feast for the 
whole "dessa" as well as for a single family. 



IN THE DESSA 246 



The men leave their work in the shops or 
the market , the women lay down the sarong- 
cloth on which for weeks and weeks they 
have been patiently tracing elaborate patterns 
with wax, and blue and brown pigment; 
and all, in hohday attire and with flowers 
wreathed in their hair or stuck into a fold 
of their head-kerchief, repair to the ripe 
rice-field. 

The doekoen-sawah is the first to enter it; 
and, as he does so, he in this wise greets 
the spirits of the field: 

„0 ! thou invisible Pertijan Siluman ! do 
not render vain the labour I have bestowed 
upon my sawah ! If thou dost render it vain, 
I will hack thy head in two! Mother Sri 
Penganten! hearken! do thou assemble and 
call to thee all thy children and grandchildren ! 
let them all be present and let not one stay 
away! I wish to reap the rice. I will reap 
it with a piece of whetted iron. Be not afraid, 
tremble not , neither raise thine eyes ! All my 
prayers implore thy favour and gracious 
protection. Also , I propose to prepare a sacri- 



246 IN THE DESSA 



fioial repast, and dedicate it to the spirit 
that protects this my sawah; and to the 
spirits that protect the four villages nearest 
to this our village, and also to Leh-Saluke 
and Leh-Mukalana!" 

Having pronounced this invocation, he 
cuts off the ears which represent the Rice- 
Bride and Bridegroom and their four com- 
panions, and the reapers begin their work. 
The implement they use is best described as 
a cross-hilted dagger of bamboo, having a 
little knife inserted into the bottom of the 
handle ; the reaper , holding the hilt in the 
fingers of his right hand, with the thumb 
presses the rice-stalk against the small knife, 
severing the ear , which he gathers in his left 
hand; and thus he cuts off each ripe ear 
separately with a gesture as dehcate as if 
he were culling a flower. The whole rice 
harvest of Java is reaped in this manner. 

The loss of time may be imagined. The 
Government has, again, and again, tried to 
introduce the use of the sickle and more ex- 
peditious methods, but in vain. In all things, 



m THE DESSA 247 



the Javanese love to do as their fathers did 
before them ; and , in this particular matter of 
the reaping of the rice , their attachment to 
ancestral customs is stiU farther strengthened 
by a religious sentiment. The Dewi Sri her- 
self they believe, having assumed the shape 
of a gelatik or rice-bird, which broke off 
the ripe ears with its bill, taught mortals 
the manner in which it pleased her that her 
good gift of the rice should be gathered. 
And accordingly, her votaries to the present 
day do gather it thus , culling each ear sepa- 
rately. In their opinion , to use a sickle would 
be to show a wanton disrespect to the goddess , 
and a contempt of her precious gift, as if 
it were not worth gathering in a seemly 
manner ; a sacrilege which the outraged deity 
would not fail to avenge by famine and pesti- 
lence. On the other hand, what would they 
gain by departing from their ancestors' hon- 
oured custom, and adopting instead the 
manners of the men from Holland? "Time", 
these men respond. But then, that means 
nothing to a Javanese. He no more wants 



248 IN THE DESSA 



to "gain time" than he wants to "gain" fresh 
air or sunlight. It is there; he has it; he 
will always have it. What absurdity is this 
talk of "gaining" an assured and ever-present 
possession ? 

The idea of time as an equivalent for a 
certain amount — the greatest possible — 
of labour performed , is essentially occidental. 
A Javanese not only does not understand 
it, but he shrugs his shoulders and smiles 
at the notion. He does not see what possible 
relation there can be between a day and 
what these white men call a day's work. 
He works, undoubtedly; but he works in 
a quiet deliberate fashion, for just so long 
as he thinks pleasant, or fit, or when the 
monsoon threatens, unavoidable; and then 
he stops ; and , if the task be not finished , 
well, it may be finished some future day. 
There is no cause why any ado should 
be made about it. Everything in time. 
And let us remember that haste cometh of 
the evil. 

At last, however, the harvest is reaped, 



IN THE DESSA 24& 



and the hour has come for the Rice-Bride 
and Bridegroom to repair to their new 
home. The two reapers on whom devolves 
the honourable duty of conducting them 
thither, don their very best clothes for the 
occasion, and daub their faces with yellow 
boreh-unguent. Then to the strains of the 
gamelan and followed by aU the reapers, 
men and women in solemn procession , they 
carry the garlanded sheaves to the house 
of the owner of the field. He and his wife 
meet them in the doorway; and, in set 
phrase , they inform the Rice-Bride and Bride- 
groom that the house is swept and garnished , 
and aU things ready for their reception. The 
procession then wends its way to the gran- 
ary, where a 'smaU space, surrounded by 
screens and spread with clean new matting, 
represents the bridal chamber. 

The Rice-Bride and Groom and their "maids 
and youths of honour" are introduced into 
this miniature room, the other sheaves 
are piled up in the loemboeng (rice-barn) 
and when the whole harvest is stored, the 



250 IN THE DESSA 



doekoen-sawah pronounces the prayer to the 
Goddess Sri. 

"Mother Sri Penganten, do thou sleep in 
this dark granary, and grant us thy protec- 
tion. It is meet that thou shouldst provide 
for all thy children and grand-children." 

Then the door of the loemboeng is locked ; 
and during forty days none dare unlock it. 
At the end of that time the honeymoon of 
the Rice-Bride and Bridegroom is supposed 
to be over. The owner of the field comes 
to the loemboeng, unlocks the door, and in 
set phrase invites the couple to an excursion 
on the river. "The boat, he says, lies ready; 
and the rowers know how to handle the 
oars." With this comparison the process of 
husking the grain, is designated. 

The sheaves are laid in the hollowed-out 
tree-trunk, which serves as a kind of mor- 
tar, and the women, bringing down the 
long wooden pestles in a rhythmic cadence 
husk the rice. And this is the end of the 
Pari Penganten. 

But, as the proverb has it, "of a wedding 



IN THE DESSA 251 



comes a wedding" and this mystic marriage 
of the rice invariably proves the prelude to 
marriages among the yomig folkof the dessa, 
who have met and wooed and won one 
another during the long days of common 
work and play in the ripe lice-field. During 
our stay on the Tjeremai hill-side we had 
occasion to convince ourselves of this. The 
Pari Penganten was but just over when we 
arrived; and already several marriages were 
being arranged in the dessa, among the 
number that of the headman's pretty daughter 
to a good-looking youth, her remote cousin. 
As a preliminary the village scholar had 
been consulted as to the young couple's 
chances of happiness ; and he having declared 
the cabbalistic meaning of their united ini- 
tials to be "a broadly-branching waringin- 
tree" which is the symbol of health, riches 
and a numerous progeny, the parents reas- 
sured as to the future of their children, 
had begun negotiations about the dowry. 
This, it should be noted, is given by the 
family of the future husband. 



252 IN THE DESSA 



After a great deal of haggling and pro- 
testing, they had at last agreed upon a sum 
about half-way between the amount originally 
offered by the bridegroom's parents and that 
demanded by the father of the bride. In due 
course , then , the youth 'had sent the custom- 
ary presents of food , clothes , and domestic 
utensils to the house of his bride. And now 
he. was busy preparing himself for the great 
day. He had had his teeth filed almost to 
the gums , and blackened till they shone like 
lacquer, so that his enthusiastic mother and 
sisters compared his mouth to the ripe pome- 
granate, in which the black seeds show 
through the red flesh. And, day by day, he 
went to the village-priest to recite to him 
the words of the marriage-formula, which 
he _ did , sitting up to his chin in the cold 
water of the tank behind the mosque, the 
priest standing over him, Koran in hand. 
The bride, on her side, had been living on 
a diet of three tea-spoonfuls of rice and a 
glass of hot water per diem, so as to lose 
flesh and — according to Javanese notions — • 



IN THE DESSA 263 



gain beauty against the happy day; and to 
the great satisfaction of her family she was 
now so thin, that they could almost see the 
flame of the oilwick shining through her. 

Meanwhile the entire population of the 
dessa was busy with preparations for the 
marriage-feast. The women might be seen 
all day long, under the pent-roof of the 
bride's house and in the kitchen, pounding 
rice , boiling vegetables , broiling fish , roasting 
goats' flesh, and mixing all manner of con- 
diments for the innumerable dishes, which 
figure at a Javanese repast. And the young 
men were chopping wood and carrying water 
as if for their livelihood.' 

At length the wedding-day arrived. 

The sun had hardly risen when already 
the women of the village were up and stirring, 
hastening on their way to the house of the 
bride , whom they were to assist at her toilet. 
This was a most compHcated affair , the girl's 
hair having to be dressed in a curious and 
elaborate fashion, requiring much twisting 
and coiling of oil-saturated tresses, interwoven 



254 IN THE DBSSA 



with wreaths of jessamine blossom, and fixed 
with large ornamentals pins; and a row ot 
little curls must be painted on the forehead 
with black pigment. Furthermore the face 
must be carefully whitened with rice-powder; 
and the shoulders and arms anointed with 
yellow boreh-unguent. It need hardly be said 
that it required the whole morning to bring 
these many and dehcate operations to a 
satisfactory end. 

The men, meanwhile, with the father of 
the bride at their head , had gone to the house 
of the bridegroom , to conduct him in solemn 
procession to the mosque, where the priest 
was to perform the marriage-ceremony 
between him and the representative of the 
bride ; for , according to Javanese notions , a 
woman has no business at a wedding — least 
of all at her own. From the mosque the groom 
then returned to his own house, where he 
proceeded to a toUet hardly less elaborate than 
that of his bride. After a considerable time, 
he issued forth again , resplendent with 
boreh-unguent, garlands o± jessamine-blos- 



IN THE DESSA 255 



soms and silver ornaments. He mounted a 
richly caparisoned poney, which his „ youth 
of honour" held ready for him; and, at the 
head of the procession, triumphantly rode 
to his bride's house, where the guests were 
waiting, my friends and I among the num- 
ber, to witness the meeting of the newly- 
wedded pair. 

As the bridegroom drew reia in front of 
the house , the bride supported by two maids 
of honour, slowly came out of her chamber. 
With measured steps the two advanced to- 
wards each other; and whilst yet at some 
distance paused. Two small bags of sirih- 
leaves containing chalk and betel-nuts were 
handed them; and with a quick movement 
each threw his at the other's head. The bride's 
little bag struck the groom full in the face. 
,.It is she that will rule the roast" said one of 
the women, chuckling. And I fancied a saw 
a gleam of satisfaction pass over the bride's 
demure little face , half hidden though it was 
by the strings of beads and jessamine-flowers 
dependent from her head dress. The next 



266 IN THE DESSA 



moment however , she had humbly knelt down 
on the floor. One of the bridesmaids handed 
her a basin full of water, and a towel; and 
she proceeded to wash her husband's feet, in 
token of loyalty and loving submission. 

When she was done, he took her by the 
hand, raising her; and led her towards the 
middle of the apartment, where a piece of 
matting was spread on the floor. On this she 
squatted down, holding up a handkerchief; 
and the bridegroom threw into it some rice , 
some "peteh"-beans and some money, sym- 
bolising the sustenance which he bound him- 
self to afford her. The symbohcal ceremonies 
were then concluded by his sitting down next 
to her , and putting three spoonfuls of rice , 
kneaded into little balls, into her mouth, 
after which he ate himself what was left in 
the dish. The solemn part of the proceedings 
being now over, the festivities began. 

As a preliminary , the bridal party was to 
go in solemn procession through the village; 
and they were marshalled in order before 
the door. 



IN THE DESSA 257 



A curious cortege it was. At the head 
appeared two "barongans" the images of a 
giant and a giantess , carried on the shoulders 
of men who were hidden in the large frame- 
work ; then came the gamelan orchestra , beUs , 
drums, kettles , viols and aU ; next a group of 
men mounted on hobby-horses, and beating 
on the sonorous "angkloeng." (*) After these 
came some half dozen women, carrying the 
bridal insignia — paper birds, bunches of 
green leaves and paper flowers, and tall 
fans made of peacocks' feathers. A group 
of priests followed, beating tambourines 
and chanting a sort of epithalamium. Next 
came the bride and her maidens in a litter, 
carried upon the shoulders of four men; 
and immediately after her the bridegroom on 
horseback followed by a group of musicians. 
The wedding-guests brought up the rear. 

In this order the procession took the road; 
went round the dessa twice; and finally 
halted at the house of the bridegroom. 



(*) An instrument composed af a series of graduated 
bamboo tubes. 

•17 



258 IN THE DBSSA 



The father appeared in the door, as soon 
as he heard the music approaching ; came out 
to meet the procession; and advancing towards 
the litter of the br jde , hffced her out of it , 
and carried her into the house, where the 
bridegroom's relations were seated in a circle 
to receive her. To these she was now, with 
great ceremony, introduced as the daughter 
of the house, whilst she and the bridegroom 
saluted every member of the assembly in 
turn, by kneeling down and kissing his or 
her feet. 

The guests were then invited to enter, and 
the men sat down to a repast , at which the 
women served them, whilst the bride and 
bridegroom took their meal together, sepa- 
rately from the rest. 

We took advantage of the momentary bustle 
to slip away unobserved. There was not a 
soul to be seen on the moonlit viUage-street ; 
the huts were dark and sUent; and at the 
entrance of the village the watchman on 
duty for the night had left his post vacant. 

A din of laughter and buzzing voices pur- 



IN THE DESSA 259 



sued, us as we descended the hill-path to our 
bungalow. And all that night , long after the 
last cricket had ceased his song we heard the 
thin clear notes of the gamelan resoimding 
from the heights. 



Epilogue 

As I write these lines — adding a last touch 
to the slight sketches in which I have en- 
deavoured to render my impressions of this 
country — the shrill whistle of steam and the 
thudding and panting of powerful engines are 
in my ears, and I see the radiant sky 
blackened by volumes of sraoke. The "cam- 
paign" has begun in the Cheribon plains. In 
endless file the lumbering, buffalo-drawn 
"pedatis" (*) creaking under the load of 
sappy green sugar-cane, jolt along upon the 
dusty road, on their way to the factory 
yonder, — a great, square , ungainly building , 
aU around which there is a stir and bustle 



(*) Carts the wheels of which are wooden discs. 



EPILOUUE 261 



of dark figures, like the swarmiBg of ants 
around an ant-hill. The gate is thrown 
wide; tall black shapes loom through the 
semi-darkness of the interior ; and , now and 
then , the sudden flare from a furnace reveals 
the bulging sooty-black mass of a boiler, or the 
contour of the gigantic wheel slowly revolving. 
^The nauseous smell of the boiling syrup taints 
the air. 

I went to the mill, the other morning, to 
watch the transformation of the beautiful 
tall reeds, which, only a few hours ago, so 
gaily fluttered their pennon-like leaves in the 
wind and sunshine without , into a shapeless 
pulp , and a turbid viscous liquor. The "man- 
doer" showed me the first sugar-bags of the 
season. I looked at them with some interest 
beyond that which they deserved in them- 
selves. We were to be companions on the 
journey westwards , and already the steamer 
which was to convey us hence, was riding 
at anchor in the roadstead of Cheribon. 

Last impressions, it is said, are the strongest, 
and those which ultimately fix the mental 

47* 



262 EPILOGUE 



images. If ao, I will remember Java, years 
hence , not as the fairy-land it seemed to me 
only yesterday, in the sylvan soHtudes of 
the Tjerimai, but as a busy manufacturiag 
country, prosperous and prosaic. 

I will remember a rich soil , an enervating 
climate , alternating droughts and inundations 
and fever-breathing monsoons ; a mode of life , 
comfortable and even luxurious, but mono- 
tonous in the extreme, which taxes to the 
utmost both mental and physical energies. 
I will think of white dusty towns by yellow 
muddy rivers ; of hills , and vales , and marshy 
lowlands overgrown with thick, sprouting 
rice; of admirable irrigation works; of a 
system of political admistration , apparently 
wise and equitable and conducive to the 
well-being of a prosperous native population. 
And I will be at a loss how to reconcile all 
these hard solid facts about Java with the 
airy fancies , the legends and the dreams , 
which must still, as with splendours of 
zodiacal light, illumine my thoughts of the 
beautiful island. 



EPILOGUE 263 



It seems impossible that both should be 
true. And yet, I know that the fancies are 
every whit as real and living as the facts, 
that the poetry and the romance are as faith- 
ful representations of things as they are , as 
the driest prose could be. 

Even now, whilst in the factory yonder, fires 
roar , engines pant , and human beings sweat 
and toil, to change the dew-drenched glory 
of the fields into a marketable commodity — 
some hamlet in the plains is celebrating the 
Wedding of the Rice with many a mystic 
rite. Some native chief, celebrating the birth 
of a son, welcomes to his house the "dalang," 
the itinerant poet and playwright, who on 
his miniature stage, represent the councils 
of the Gods, and the adventures, in war 
and love, of unconquerable heroes, and of 
queens more beautiful than dawn. And 
in the sacred grove of Sangean on the 
Tjerimai, the green summit of which domi- 
nates the southern horizon, some huntsman, 
crouching by the shore of the legend-haunted 
lake, invokes the Princess Golden Orchid, 



264 EPILOGUE 



and her saintly brother, Radhen Pangloera, 
who live in a silver palace deep down in 
the shining water, and who shower wealth, 
honour , and long life upon the mortal , who 
pronounces the names the spirits of the lake 
know them by. Nay — on this very estate, 
amid the smoke of the factory-chimneys ro- 
mance stiU holds her own. The mythopoeic 
fancy of the country-folk has enthroned a 
"danhjang," tutelary genius of the field, in 
the branches of an ancient waringin-tree out 
in the fields. On their way to the mill, men 
and women pause in its shade , to hang little 
paper fans the branches on, or deposit on 
the humble altar jessamine blossoms, yellow 
"boreh" unguent and new-laid eggs in ho- 
mage to the agrestic god. 

Now, the waringin tree stands in a field 
of sugar-cane , where its wide-spreading roots 
exhaust the soil, and its broad shadow kUls 
the young plants within, an ever-expanding 
circle. Clearly, it should be cut down. But 
the owner of the estate, warned by recent 
events, wisely forbears. He chooses to put up 



EPILOGUE 265 



with these inconveniences, rather than expose 
himself and his property to the revenge which 
the votaries of the Danhjang would undoubt- 
edly take, if a sacrilegious hand were laid 
on his chosen abode. And so, the Sacred 
Waringin thrives and flourishes in the midst 
of the plantations of sugar-cane , a fit symbol 

' of the romance which , in this island , pervades 
all things, even those the most prosaic in 
appearance. 

It is this, I beheve, this constant intru- 

v'l^n of the poetic , the legendary , the fanciful 
into the midst of reality, which constitutes 
the unique charm of Java. This is the secret 
of the unspeakable and irresistible fascination 
by which it holds the men of the north, born 
and bred among the sterner reahties of Euro- 
pean civilisation. A spell which becomes so 
potent as to countervail ills which otherwise 
would prove unbearable ; and to temper , with 
a regret and a strange sense of want, the 
joys of the exile's home-coming. 

And this, too, is the reason why, to me 
as to so many who have beheld Java not 



266 EPILOGUE 



with the bodily eye alone , it must still remain 
a land of dreams and fancies , the Enchanted 
Isle where innocent beliefs and gladsome 
thoughts , such as are the privilege of children 
and ohildUke nations, still have their happy 
home. 



G.NABRINK 

MODERN AND 
ANTIQUARIAN BOOKS 
THE HAGUE (HOLLAND) 





■r'